Certain events require an ability to ‘network’. But what if you’ve never knowingly networked before? Here are some pointers to get you started:
What is networking?
Networking is simply building mutually beneficial relationships, discovering things you have in common with others and working out how you can best help them. It’s not about ‘schmoozing’ and it’s certainly not about asking someone for a job (although if they know of one going, they’ll often tell you!)
Do your research
Research in advance who’ll be attending the event and identify the key people you’d particularly like to meet. If you have any mutual contacts in common ask for an introduction. If not, wait until the person is free to talk and go up and introduce yourself.
How to do it?
The good news is that you’re probably already doing it. The best networkers are highly skilled listeners, who ask the right questions to get the conversation going, and put you at your ease. They demonstrate genuine interest in what you have to say – and are happy to share opinions and contacts.
Be friendly, approachable and proactive. If you see someone standing on their own go over and introduce yourself. They’ll probably be very appreciative.
Ask for advice
Take a leaf out of their book and remember that everyone likes the opportunity to talk about themselves, so asking open questions (what, where, when, why, how) about their career path is a very good place to start. People are usually flattered when you seek them out for advice so asking for their opinion on your options and job search will generally yield positive results and will keep the conversation flowing.
Always follow through on anything you’ve offered to do, such as making an introduction or sharing information. Often connecting on LinkedIn is the easiest way to do this. Send an appreciative email thanking them for their time and saying you’d like to stay in touch. Then make sure that you’re proactive in updating them. Following the 24/7/28 rule helps to cement the relationship – that is, initiate first contact within 24 hours (a ‘thank you’ email fits perfectly here), make sure you deliver on any actions you’ve agreed to take within seven days (contacting people they may have suggested would be a good example), then updating them again a month later on your progress.
Good luck and enjoy it!