For many people, networking is daunting. Everyone knows networking can create incredible career opportunities and help to steer you to achieving your dreams. Even knowing all the great potential from networking, the idea of it can cause many people to just avoid networking altogether.
It’s easy to hide away and carry on with job applications and work whilst ignoring the possibilities open to you through networking. If you knew the facts however, it might change your mind.
Some facts about networking:
- 85% of roles are filled through networking
- 1 in 4 people don’t network at all
- 28% of professionals have found or been referred to a new role through a network connection
- 85% of professionals believe in-person meetings build stronger, more meaningful business relationships
The Places to Network
Where you should network really depends on what you want to achieve from networking. Take time to consider what your aims are, do you just want a bigger network of contacts? Maybe you’re looking for a new career? Or wanting to move up in your current role?
Then look for networking events that match your needs. There are plenty of free ones as well as others which just have a nominal cost. If you’re looking for a new career, find an event where you can meet professionals in a similar field. If it’s about building a networking, ask around to see if anyone you already know has recommendations.
Events organized by societies, forums or non-profits tend to have a great mix of different people to meet as they are geared especially towards networking. Meanwhile, if you’re looking to get a foot in the door at a certain company, look out for their own networking events as well as any events they might be sponsoring or speaking at.
Bring a friend
Bringing a friend or colleague to an event helps to ease yourself into the world of networking.
By going to an event together, you have the option to go your own way and chat to all the interesting people there whilst always having the safety net of someone you know to fall back on when you’re worried.
Making the Most of the Opportunity
Networking is about more than just showing up. Networking grows channels of communication with key personnel in your area of interest. More often than not, the people at these events are just as nervous and unsure as you. The truth is that they likely share very similar interests and it’s very easy to spark up a conversation.
Taking that brave first step and approaching someone to chat at an event can be the start of something incredible, you just need to break the ice.
- More often than not, there is a presentation or panel discussion at a networking event – ask someone what they thought about a specific item that came up and gain their insights and opinions.
- Talk about the event itself – there’s lots to talk about; maybe comment on the food, the venue or the location
- Discuss current affairs – It goes without saying that divisive politics are to be avoided when speaking to strangers but brushing up on the day’s news can be a great option for an icebreaker
- Ask a question – The only way to get to know someone is by asking. Find out their story and how they ended up here or in their field of work.
The Act of Networking
The nerves of many around networking often come from the idea of the small talk already addressed but also the nuances of body language that come with networking.
The body language aspect of networking is really much simpler than you think. Try to make eye contact as much as possible when speaking to someone and also try to have a firm (but not too firm!) handshake.
Other than those more detailed aspects, just show an interest in the person you’re speaking to, engage with them and ask questions.
Fake it ‘til you become it
The idea of networking might still give you the chills but the only way to get better and see the benefits for yourself is to dive in. You might think you’re an imposter when starting out networking but with experience you will become an expert in the field.
By moving out of your comfort zone and entering networking events you can not only create new opportunities for yourself but develop new skills in public speaking and business development. As a bonus, you’ll also meet some amazing people while you learn these new skills.
There’s really no time like the present so go ahead and search for networking events near you today and start creating new opportunities for yourself.