THE IMPORTANCE OF NETWORKING
Why and how to network
Networking is a vital for any individual who wants to connect and engage with people for mutual benefits – and is especially important in media and PR.
Just because you turn up to a networking event, doesn’t mean you are going to make contacts. You must put in the time, effort, organisation, persistence and a sheer force of good will to build your networks and it may take a while to see results.
Networking is not only for seeing what new jobs are available and gaining new business, it is about expanding your contact list for yourself and your organisation.
It is an effective way to meet and connect with potential clients or investors, or journalists who may cover your story. You are meeting these people on a personal level and so it can be a powerful form of personal advertising.
Your contact list should be never ending, as you can never have enough contacts.
Here are some tips on how to successfully network:
It is all about who you know
In most businesses, the saying goes it’s not about what you know but who you know.
This is usually correct, as people will more likely hire you, invest in your business or cover your story if you have a mutual contact or know someone directly.
An easy way to start networking is by meeting others who already know people you know. This will establish common ground and help you build relationships.
Talk about yourself
When introducing yourself, you want to put in as much detail as possible, without sounding boring or arrogant.
Business cards are essential to pass around during networking. These will usually list your position, skills, talents and your contact details.
You want to be yourself, because you want people to see who you are and what you have to offer them. You’ll be surprised with the outcome.
You should never go around networking events and ask people for a job, though. That’s not what networking is about and might deter people. Instead, ask people for information or advice that will help you get a job. Networking should be about building rapport and creating relationships with people. So, if a new job opportunity arises, you will be the first people they call.
A common ice breaker used in networking is “what do you do?”. It isn’t the best question, but it definitely gets the ball rolling. Ice breakers are a good way to start a conversation and stop any awkward silences.
Be confident, short and concise
It can be daunting to meet new people. You want to show that you are confident, while also trying not to take up too much of their time. Time is money and so people like to keep things as quick and short as possible – so you’ll want to keep the conversation short and concise.
If you know who will be attending your networking event or meeting, do some research and think of appropriate questions to ask beforehand. This will show that you are professional and might even impress them with your knowledge on their company.
If you don’t know who’s attending the event, have some generic questions prepared, so that you save time
Here are some of the questions that are useful to ask:
- How long have you worked there?
- What are the best things about your position?
- What is it like working for your organisation?
- How did you get this position?
- What are the skills or training you needed to get this job?
It takes courage to walk up to someone and introduce yourself. This all comes with practice. The more you attend networking events, the more confident you will feel to converse with other professionals.
Be polite and say thank you
When networking, you should be as polite as possible. You are trying to build a connection with others and if you’re not polite, they won’t want to talk to you. So be a great conversationalist and don’t do the talking, let the other person speak as well.
You need to be actively listening to what the other person has to say. This way, you might learn something valuable or get a key insight into what an organisation is looking for, what they do, or how to crack an industry.
Make sure if you ask people questions, that you give them time to answer. At the end of the conversation, thank the person for any information or advice they have given you. You never know how far a simple thank you and appreciation goes when networking.
Gain connections through social media
Social media platforms such as LinkedIn and Twitter are great and cost-effective ways to connect with other people from your industry. In effect, they’re a modern day business card.
Try and find people who have similar jobs, interests or industries as you that might be valuable for your contacts list. You need to find ways to start up conversations with people, so write valuable comments on their posts. This will make them interested in you and get your name out there.
If you are ever able to meet them in person, they will recognise your name and profile picture, which makes it easier to talk with them. Feel free to reach out and suggest a coffee or meeting to turn a digital relationship into one that’s face-to-face.
Social media is buzzing 24-hours every day. So, connecting with others this way can be easier than setting up an event. This also means that your social media profile must be always kept up-to-date with important information that your contacts will want to know about you.
LinkedIn is especially designed to network with other professionals. So, create a professional and accurate page and bio for your profile. You’ll also want to use a professional photo for people take you seriously and see you as a potential connection.
Your profile page is like a resume but offers a more in-depth insight into your professional career, some of the work you have previously done and links to your portfolio or website.
To network, join LinkedIn groups that share your interests or industry. Create valuable posts in these groups, to make people want to check out your profile page and see who you are.
Remember to follow up and keep in touch
After you meet someone, make sure you actively keep in touch with them. You can do this through adding them on social media, keeping in touch via emails or calls, or even making time to see them in person. They will see that you are really interested in their organisation and strengthen the relationship.
When connecting with people, try and keep some detailed notes, so that when you want to follow up with them later, you know how to write to them specifically with a personal touch.
If you discussed an article that they wanted to read or something that gives you a reason to follow up, make sure that you do. You will be seen as reliable and true to your word.
Try and find ways throughout the year to reconnect with people. Something may have changed, or they might need you and your skills. Always be consistent when following up with people and try to offer some value, so that they remain interested in you.
Networking can be a useful tool if you are organised, prepared and willing to connect. This may lead to exciting and new opportunities, friendships and mentors.