By Vanessa B
Just as businesses need to market themselves to be recognised and trusted, so too do individuals. If you want a stellar career, you can’t do it without building your networking skills. Unfortunately, many otherwise talented professionals never fully unlock their true potential because they don’t take networking seriously.
Why is networking so important?
Networking will get you noticed, and that will create opportunities. If you make a strong impression on another professional, it’s more likely they will bear you in mind for future opportunities. In most cases, the pay-off isn’t immediate; you might meet someone at a conference, have a brief conversation with them, and only find yourself headhunted several months, or even years, down the line.
As well as opening doors, networking can often provide opportunities to learn new skills and be exposed to new ideas. If you only ever talk to people you already know, after all, you won’t stand a great chance of progressing.
How can I network more effectively?
There are several strategies you might employ to improve your networking prowess. Let’s run through the more effective of them.
Attend industry events: Industry events provide a rare chance for all the significant players in an industry to get together and share their ideas (and sell their products and services). If you’re in attendance, you may do more networking over a few days than you do over the rest of the year put together.
Always have your contact details ready: If you’re meeting new people, you’ll need to be able to provide them with a means of continuing the conversation later. Fortunately, there is a marketing convention that achieves this: simply hand your contact your business card. Get them made en masse before you attend any significant event and make sure you hand one to every person you meet.
Use the power of social media: Of course, networking nowadays isn’t just face to face. Social media plays a massive role in boosting your profile. Join every group that’s even tangentially related to your area of interest and actively participate in the discussion there. You might consider auditing your social media profile, too – just to make sure you haven’t made any off-colour posts that might be dug up in a few years by offence archaeologists. LinkedIn is a network that’s particularly important to professionals, so make sure you’re on it.
Be proactive: Don’t wait until you need to start networking – get ahead of the game by doing it proactively. Talk to everyone you can find and make sure they know who you are. Get into the habit of networking and you’ll find it useful for the rest of your life.