It’s funny – the very word ‘networking’ has the power to strike fear into even the boldest people. Visions of making small talk with strangers over warm white wine are what people conjure up. In reality, networking – or building relationships – is something that we do all the time and often without conscious effort.
Example of successful networking
Julia Mills, Senior Consultant at OCO Global, describes herself as an ‘unconscious networker’. However, in all the career moves she’s made, networking has played a big part. Despite having a first class degree from a reputable university, her 60 applications for roles in publishing and journalism she made on first graduating were all rejected. Quickly realising she’d need to change tack, a family connection then introduced Julia to someone in the Press Association, where she was offered a week’s work experience. She made the most of it – and was offered a permanent two-day a week role as a result. Again, she worked hard, made a good impression and her boss at PA offered her an introduction to the BBC Political Research Unit, where worked as a Political Researcher for the additional three days a week.
Fast forward several roles and two different continents and the job Julia is doing now, advising economic development organisations around the world on foreign direct investment, she also gained through her connections. She says:
Whilst I was living in Japan, a university friend contacted me about an editorial role in Paris, which I went for. The connections I made there led me to apply for a position at the Japanese Delegation to the OECD, and when I moved back to the UK my boss recommended me for a role at another Japanese governmental organisation, JETRO, in London. When I left to go travelling, I emailed clients, letting them know I was planning to return to the UK and a number of them replied asking me to speak to them when I got back.
Networking isn’t something I’m conscious of doing. For me, it’s about investing in good, lasting relationships, ensuring that I excel in my role and making the effort to stay in touch with people. I’ve often found opportunities to come from unexpected places – through extended friends’ networks and as the result of recommendations.
Julia’s top tips
- ‘Ace’ whatever job you’re doing – people will notice.
- Be open to new experiences as life can take you in unexpected directions.
- Take time to build genuine relationships with others based on shared ground and common interests.
- Offer help and information, and make sure you follow through.
LSE Careers runs regular interactive seminars on improving your networking skills, keep an eye on CareerHub to sign up.