What is networking?
You’ve probably heard this buzzword bouncing around. But what exactly does ‘networking’ actually mean?
Networking is really just talking to people - but with a purpose. Making connections, opening up opportunities, and making professional contacts. This might happen in a work setting, such as an industry event where you approach a speaker. Or maybe a quick chat at a careers fair, swapping business cards. Networking can take many forms. So what are the main types?
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Not the kind of person who craves the spotlight? That doesn't mean you can’t be a great networker. Find out how Sonia does it in a way that makes the most of her strengths.
Types of networking
- Professional: school, college, and work events — perhaps through external training opportunities or conferences
- Social: such as the business-focused social network LinkedIn, or within specialist online communities
- Informal: with people you meet through sports or hobbies, or at social events, when you start to talk about careers
How to network successfully
Many people are nervous about what’s called ‘face-to-face networking’. The idea of approaching people can be daunting, especially at the start of your career. However, networking can be positive, powerful and enjoyable.
What to do (and what not to do)
- Walk the walk, talk the talk - Stand tall, smile, and use open body language. If you look confident, you’ll feel confident. Enjoy it!
- Make notes - Leaving an event with 20 business cards and no context would test even the best memory! Make notes on who you meet and what you talked about, so that when you want to follow up, it’s easy to find them. You could even look up the speakers beforehand and come prepared with questions to ask them.
- Follow up - Find them on LinkedIn, or drop them an email, but make sure you let them know how much you enjoyed meeting them, and how you’d love to discuss further any opportunities.
- Rush things - Racing to give your business card to every person at an event means you’ll miss the chance for genuine connection. Aim for conversations rather than ‘pitching’ at people.
- Make notes - Just like any meeting, you want to ask questions as well as talk about yourself. Be curious and interested, and you’ll make better connections.
- Be afraid to speak up - Approach that person! Ask them for help if you need it; take the opportunity.