We all know how easy it is to focus on the client in front of us. However tempting it is to skip that coffee morning or evening drinks, making the time to network will pay off, we all know it does. The key is to ensure you’re making the most of each opportunity - your time is valuable after all. Here are 4 tips on how.
1. It’s not all about work!
Arriving at a networking event can be intimidating, but it’s important to be clear on what you expect to get out of each event (have a read of Antony's blog about finding the right event). Networking isn’t about telling as many people as possible about your company and the work you do (though obviously this should get a mention!). Everyone who’s made the effort to come along is working for a different company, on different projects, and you aren’t there to hear all about them!
You want to try and make your interactions personal and genuinely interesting. Make sure you ask the people you’re meeting with about their interests, not just their jobs. People remember people, their personalities and interests, and are frankly less likely to be interested in someone who only wants to speak about work.
It's highly unlikely to even get a return on the first few events you visit, however, after 6 months or so, those relationships you’re building through each interaction will start creating a tangible and extensive network.
2. Preparation pays!
Knowing what you can and want to get out of each event is a surefast way of making sure you’re maximising on each opportunity, not just increasing your LinkedIn connection count. Not all events will come with a guest list, but there’s always other ways of doing research such as asking a colleague or the person that invited you.
Events with a table plan (such as Ladies Lunch Club) give you the chance to seek out the most relevant individuals to invest your time with. Take time to prepare, decide what you’d like to talk about, and seize the opportunity to impress them.
All of this will boost the return on the time you put in. Structuring the event will give you confidence, and helps make sure you’re giving that great & lasting first impression.
3. Get the basics right and the rest will follow.
It sounds straightforward, but it makes all the difference. When you’re doing your research, make sure you check the dress code, shine your shoes, and have a stack of business cards ready! It seems obvious, we all know what gets said of first impressions, but it’s absolutely true. If there’s no specific dress code or guest list, such as Brighton Young Professionals, ask colleagues who’ve been before, check social media feeds or groups for photos of previous events, and use your initiative to make sure you’re ready.
4. Keep one eye on the future
A lot of us look at networking as time-expensive and with poor results, and let’s face it, we’re busy people. Know the value of what you’re doing. Even though the results aren’t always tangible, the impact they can have on your future is irreplaceable. Meeting someone face to face over breakfast or a curry, turns that cold call into a warm call.
Most firms won't progress you past Manager without evidence of networking and marketing - business development becomes a key factor as you move up the ladder. Showing your face alone won’t cut it, make yourself a celebrity in your local area, and remember that you could be meeting your next boss or that career changing client!
Alice Cahill is a Recruitment Consultant in the Accountancy Division at Harvey John.
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