A beginner's guide to networking

Networking sounds like something we might have read about in a 1980s career management manual and as a result, some see it as an old fashioned concept that is too time-consuming and leads nowhere. However, it can still be extremely important to a person’s career development and an activity that shouldn’t be overlooked. Even at school, you are told about meeting people, communicating effectively and making new connections but once in the workplace, how regularly do people actually step outside their workplace bubble and regularly network?

Attending networking events is often seen to be something that only those eager, looking to get ahead people do. How often have you come away from such an event feeling less than eager to attend another one! You might have met some great people but left feeling you are missing out. So where do you begin?

Firstly consider which areas of your working life could benefit from some new connections and contacts. The idea of it’s not what you know, it's who you know, usually has a negative undertone and can sadly be true in some cases. But if taken in a positive context, getting to know others can enhance and provide interest in your professional life.

Here are some great examples of reasons why you should start networking:

  • Want to move industries and need some useful contacts.
  • Want to move departments in a company and looking to learn more about the area.
  • Looking to move companies and want to meet people who already work there.
  • Eager to meet like-minded people in the same field and industry as you.
  • Just moved to a new town or city and want to make professional connections.

This list could go on and only you will know the reason relevant to you. So now you’ve decided you should network, how do you find the appropriate events?

The following sites are great for networking opportunities:

  • Bumble Biz
  • Meet Up
  • Eventbrite
  • Linkedin Events/groups
  • Facebook groups - networking or industry specific

Never forget word of mouth. If you hear someone talking about networking or an event they went to in the office, don’t be shy asking them which one it was and if they can share the details. You may even want to take it a step further and ask to go with them to the next one. Attending with a friend or colleague to your first networking event, can make the experience more positive but don’t hesitate to go it alone! Most people at the networking events will be by themselves and keen to engage so you will be in a similar boat.

Have an intention. It’s important when going to these events that you are not wasting your time. Make sure you are going for a purpose and sometimes that can include setting yourself some goals, including the very obvious ones of, not leaving the event until you’ve met one interesting person, got one email address or a few Linkedin connections. You’ll be pleased when those connections are realised and the more networking you are involved in, the easier and more productive it becomes.

Of course, networking is a commitment but it’s one that can have great benefits so make sure you are not wasting your own time and commit to maximising every opportunity you have.

Photo: Pexels

 

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