You might not realise it, but you’re already part of quite a few networks. You have a friendship network, a family network, and maybe a society or sports team that you’re part of. And let’s not forget all those Facebook friends.
“Networking” takes meeting people to the next level. Be friendly and the people in your network will help you achieve your goals – and that’s what we’ll explore in this post.
Networking means having relationships which can help you achieve your goals. Would you help someone out if you didn’t like them? Probably not. That means networking is made up of three steps:
It’s impossible to overstress the importance of the second step. Giving people cause to like you is the key to unlocking a mutually beneficial relationships.
For a quick introduction, check out this video we made:
Important: Professional networking should always be just that - professional. The aim is to encourage people to warm to you because you're a nice person who is good at their job and has the potential to flourish in their career. If anyone speaks to you in a way that makes you uncomfortable, or asks you to do something you're unsure about, end the conversation and talk to your boss or someone you can trust about it.
Networking can sound like a bit of a chore, but there are so many benefits to having good relationships with a wide range of people. People in your network (often known as “contacts”) can:
Often, the benefit is something you’d never even expected.
People often talk about “networking events”. Any event attended by people from different backgrounds and employers like a talk or a conference is an opportunity to add to your network, and therefore a potential networking event.
A so–called “networking event” is unlikely to be your first experience of networking. But there are many other networking situations you’re likely to find yourself in:
In fact, pretty much any area of life is an opportunity for networking. It’s a bit like Pokémon – with an eagle eye and a bit of determination, you’ll soon catch ‘em all.
'Networking can help you in every area of life – from work and school to your university application'
We’ve already talked about some of the ways you can meet people “naturally”.
But what if you’re given the opportunity to attend a networking event? It can be quite daunting to actually go up and meet people. Here are a few pointers from management consultant Christopher Barratt:
Whenever you meet people face–to–face, it’s important to make a good impression:
Once the pleasantries are over with, the easiest way to encourage people to you warm to you quickly is to show an interest in them:
Don’t talk about yourself too much. Remember the mnemonic WAIT. It means “Why Am I Talking?” – and it’s something you should ask yourself whenever you open your mouth (when networking, we mean, not just in general).
Asking questions has the side benefit of helping you establish what they can offer you. For example, you might find out the person you spoke to at that university open day is in charge of admissions.
Remember, when you network with one person, you’re potentially networking with everyone they know as well. Don’t dismiss someone just because they don’t fit in with your plans. Maybe they’re the admission tutor’s best friend!
If you meet at a networking event:
When you start a job, the chances are you won’t know anyone much apart from the person who hired you.
But don’t just confine your circle to the people you work with – use your initiative and be pro–active:
You could even set yourself a target of making three new contacts every month to keep you on track as you build your network.
Mentors are another great way to develop quickly in the world of work. Now you know how to build your network, check out our guide to making the most of your mentor to really get a head start when you start your first job.