Mastering the art of networking can be a daunting task but it’s an important skill to master in anyone’s career development.
Learning how to network with colleagues and industry peers can help you to by creating new business opportunities. Even if you're looking for jobs, staying in touch with others in your industry provides a chance to brainstorm strategies and share best practices for remaining competitive.
Top networking tips:
Working a room can uncover hidden job opportunities at the executive level, and here’s our top tips on how to become a power networker:
- Relax! Remember, just because you might feel uncomfortable inside, if you act relaxed on the outside no one will be able to tell the difference.
- Make eye-contact & smile: If you’re feeling intimidated and not quite ready to take the plunge and introduce yourself to anyone, take a deep breath, smile and try to catch the eye of a fellow networker – with any chance they may do the hard work for you and provide a segue into an introduction.
- Prepare: Before you attend the event, think up some ice-breakers ahead of the day. A typical way to break the ice is to ask about others jobs – where do they work, how did they get into the industry, why are they attending today’s event. If you have just been in a key note presentation, you can also ask how they found the presenter and topic.
- Sell yourself: Just like a job interview, networking events are a great place to display your market knowledge and experience. Have a 5 minute elevator pitch prepared that you are comfortable
Business networking mistakes to avoid:
Networking mistakes are easy to make, especially for those who are out of practice. Outlined below are several common networking mistakes and tips to avoid them:
- Assigning staff members to attend most industry events. If you delegate this responsibility entirely, you risk missing out on valuable networking opportunities. Make an appearance at professional association meetings whenever possible.
- Skipping the networking reception preceding a business function. Arrive early to mingle with other guests or the speaker before the program begins. Scan the sign-in sheet to see who's arrived, then seek the people you want to meet.
- Limiting your circle of contacts. Expand your network to include professionals at varying experience levels, not just your peers. Look outside your industry for potential contacts. You never know who might have the right connections.
- Overlooking new venues. Networking isn't just for business occasions. Make an effort to meet at least three new contacts at social gatherings such as sporting events or holiday parties, and always carry business cards with you.
- Having a hidden agenda. Be up-front if you're looking for assistance in your job search, and be prepared with a 15-second sales pitch. Others will appreciate your candour and be better able to help you.
- Being overly aggressive. While it's important to communicate regularly with people in your network, avoid becoming a disruption.
- Failing to write down pertinent information. After meeting a new contact and exchanging business cards, jot down a few notes about your conversation on the back of the person's card to jog your memory later.
- Lacking appreciation. Always let people know you value their help. A simple thank-you note or e-mail is appropriate.
Whatever you do, don’t give up! Learning how to network is an excellent skill to develop and even if those you meet aren't able to help you, maintaining your network and your positive attitude ultimately will lead to new opportunities.
Want more ideas on how to reach your career goals? Read our article 'How to advance your career'.