My first experience of business networking was whilst I was still at uni. No one really warned me what I was walking into and I still proclaim it was one of the worst experiences of my life (bit over dramatic there but you get the idea).
However, it lead onto other events, and meeting other people, and those new relationships lead to others and because of networking I landed my first job right after graduation!
That then lead to more networking and onto my second job, which lead onto more networking and me launching my first business just one year later.
For me one of the most wondrous things about networking is that you just never know who you’re going to meet, where the conversations will lead, and what opportunities will arise in the future!
With so much uncertainty hanging in the air for peoples at all stages of their careers, I wanted to share my top tips for networking to enhance career development in the hope it could help others on their journey too –
1. Who do you know
People often associate networking with meeting new people, but you already have so many great contacts in your network make sure you’re nurturing your relationships with them! Start with your Facebook friends (more likely to be actual friends and of course family are a great), then move onto LinkedIn connections (you’ve probably met most of them in person at least once), and finally your Twitter followers (could be anyone!).
2. Market yourself
Let people in your network know that you’re available for work and looking for a new challenge – they can’t recommend you for opportunities or pass information your way unless they know you’re looking. If you’re not ready to tell the world then tell key people privately so they can keep an eye out for you.
3. Create associations
There are a lot of opportunities out there. In order for your network to recommend you for the right ones it’s important to create associates between yourself and the work you’re looking for! Writing blogs on certain topics, or creating video content is a great way to build associations in peoples minds between you and the industry/roles your looking for.
4. Be strategic
If you know what industry you’d like to work in then start attending events within that area. Look at the topics of the networking events, seminars or panel discussions. Look at who the event organiser is, and look at where the host is based. Although you can network digitally anywhere in the world, if you’re looking to progress in your career and you want to work for a company based in the North East for example, it might not be productive to attend events hosted by South West based company as they’re more likely to attract delegates from that area too.
5.Network for knowledge
Knowledge is one of the most valuable assets of networking, and attending events with the mindset of learning from others is a great way to build relationships as well as learning. You’ll develop personally as well as professionally, you’ll become a valuable person to know, and you’ll be introduced to many opportunities you wouldn’t have come across on your own.
Finally just remember to be yourself. Giving people the opportunity to really get to know you is what networking is all about – being a decent human goes a long way too so remember your manners, but have fun and see where conversations and relationships take you!