Opinion

5 Ways to Make Networking Work for You

If you want to make the next big step in your career or you’re considering moving into a different industry, networking should be an essential part of your job-hunting tool kit.

Along with looking for vacancies online and signing up to a recruitment agency in Cambridge, Chelmsford, Ipswich or Norwich, networking has become a route to employment that you really need to explore – it is also a great way of raising your professional profile in the local business community. You can network online using social media, which is handy if you’re a little shy. However, doing it face-to-face can be even more effective but this does mean you won’t have a laptop to hide behind!

It can be a little daunting and if you haven’t been networking before take heed of these simple guidelines and you’ll be well on your way to the job you’ve always wanted.

1. Check out the list

If people need to register or buy tickets for a networking event look at the delegate list to see who else is going. Be strategic and identify people who may be able to help you with advice. If it’s a big event it’s unlikely you’ll get to speak to everyone you’d like to, so don’t panic. Just try to talk to as many of your ‘favourites’ as you can and see where the conversations take you.

2. It’s a two-way street

Networking isn’t about just fulfilling your own goals. It’s about building mutual relationships that benefit each person. So when you’re doing the rounds ask yourself “how can I help this person?”. Not only is this a way of getting others to remember you, but they’re more likely to be open to you staying in touch and passing your details onto friends and colleagues.

3. Know what to ask

Make the most of networking by making a mental note of questions that will get the information you need. For instance, asking people who they work for and the kind of work they do will help you figure out how much industry experience they have, or whether they have any involvement in recruitment or job creation. Also ask how someone’s company is unique to their competitors. This helps you get to know the business ‘landscape’ better, which is vital when making major career decisions.

4. Embrace the competition

What if you get chatting to someone but discover they’re a rival? It may be tempting, to make the excuse that you think you left the gas cooker on and exit swiftly! But, you really should stay!. There’s nothing more encouraging that talking to someone who’s achieved similar things to you, so embrace the opportunity. You can help each other by recommending contacts, discussing how you’ve both overcome problems and sharing your ambitions. It can really be very invigorating!

5. Collect cards and follow up

As you chat to people ask for business cards. But to prevent forgetting who you met, as soon as you get home make notes on each one about the conversation you had and where you met. This way when you follow up with a phone call or email you can open the conversation with something like this: “It was great meeting you at the B2B networking night on Wednesday. How’s that big website project going?”. Making that connection helps the person you’re calling remember who you are too!

Networking can be fun as well as strategic, so get out there and go to nearby events. Search online, ask friends and look at the business news in your local newspaper.