Networking can be daunting, however, let me tell you it doesn’t have to be! My social and professional network has helped me to forge trusted relationships within the profession, exposed me to new opportunities, taken me to new countries and helped me to mature into a competent professional. The people who have met have become friends, colleagues and clients.
What's the point of networking?
Whether you are a student, graduate, manager or business development director, it is important to connect with individuals or groups to understand the resources that you may not or cannot obtain yourself. For me, the initial steps to building my network was attending graduate careers fairs and RICS Matrics events in the UK. Regardless of what some may say, face to face networking is far more prevalent than sitting behind your phone or computer, hoping that someone will give you what you need. Communicating your interests, presenting yourself and sharing information, helps to build trust which in my opinion is the basis of any prosperous relationship.
By coming out of my comfort zone, networking has helped me to develop strong interpersonal skills, which has assisted me in becoming a competent Project Manager. My network has helped me build mutually beneficial relationships through common interests, ability for me to share and explore new ideas and also validate my own career approach with those who can provide support.
Whether you know it or not, you are probably already networking and part of a growing network! What I find useful is contributing to my network based on common interests. For me this is both online and offline (face-face).
Many young people self-doubt themselves, they almost convince themselves that they have nothing positive to contribute towards. They instil fear within themselves which prevents them on moving forward. Don’t worry… this is common. Take a deep breath, stand tall and smile. You don’t need to talk if you don’t want to (although it would help). Introduce yourself, tell them a little bit about yourself and what you do.
I normally plan before hand, to ensure I get the most out of the session. I will normally get there early before small circles start forming around the room. This will help avoid the awkwardness of joining a circle halfway through.
Once, you’re in… If there is a group of you it likely conversation will be flowing. Don’t interrupt the person. Smiling and listening at this point is key. Find a point where you can introduction yourself. Keep it simple, introduce your name followed by a brief outline of who you are and a bit about yourself. Avoid going in for the hard sell, or being persistent with your questions. Remember networking is a two-way process, once you feel comfortable with that person(s) it is then appropriate to give further details or exchange business cards.
It is likely that even before you enter the room you have something in common, otherwise you probably wouldn’t be attending. This is likely CPD, APC, young people, award ceremony etc. Be yourself and remember to have a good time, and let the conversation flow naturally. Here are some conversation starters:
Should you have connected with someone who you want to stay in touch with, either drop them an email if you have their business card, or politely send a message on LinkedIn. I strongly believe that networking is an ongoing relationship rather than a one-off discussion. I feel that Email or a telephone conversation is more personable. However, if you don’t have their email address, a message via LinkedIn is also suitable. I always find it beneficial to follow up with an action, such as suggesting meeting up to continue discussions over a coffee or similar.
Remember, you never know who you will meet or when you might need their services. Be passionate about networking and in turn this will help build the foundations of your professional career and personal brand.