If one of your New Year’s resolutions was to become better at networking then you may want to read our article which offers some practical advice on how to become better at this much under-rated skill.
Some people are naturally very good at networking, whereas others find it a struggle to strike up conversation with people they don’t know. Hopefully these hints and tips will help everyone to relook at how they network and try to improve.
- Don’t discriminate
Don’t only talk to the people who are of equal or superior rank to you. If you only network with senior managers then you are missing out on a whole host of people who can help you. The secretary that will always put your call through, the receptionist who will endeavour to find you a meeting slot, the PA who can provide a vital introduction, and not to mention today’s office junior who could be the CEO in ten years’ time.
- Practice networking
If you’re worried that you’ll embarrass yourself talking to someone you don’t know, practice by speaking to various people throughout your day. The bus driver, the server in the newsagent and the lady in the canteen are all people who would probably appreciate the interaction and give you valuable practice.
- Try not to have an agenda
Only talking to someone because you want something from them is very transparent and disingenuous. The whole point of networking is that you widen the group of people you know professionally, you need to establish a level of trust before you can start to ask for favours.
- Always look the part
If you’re at a function ensure that you’re dressed in the correct dress code for the occasion, you want to be remembered for your personality not your fashion sense. Look open and approachable and be aware of your body language. Don’t forget, people will want to network with you too.
- Follow conversations up
Ask people for their business cards or mobile phone number and offer yours. Drop people a quick email if you spot something industry related that they may be interested in. However, don’t start cyber-stalking them, exchanging Linked-in details is fine but asking to befriend a relative stranger on Facebook is going too far.
- Be polite at all times
Even if you don’t agree with someone, either politely put your point across or hold your tongue. Hold eye contact and shake hands with people you meet, always tell them it was a pleasure to meet them.
- Be a good listener
Networking is a two-way street; you need to listen as well as you talk. Ask people questions, not just about work but also about their personal life—although keep it general, do they have any children, what football team do they support etc.
- Don’t brag
Nobody likes a bragger, it is possible to introduce relevant achievements into a conversation whilst still staying humble. Never try to upstage anyone, belittling other peoples achievements will not win you any friends.
- Never lie
This should go without saying, but any lies you tell, whether they are little white lies or big whoppers are likely to come back and bite you. People will always respect honesty.