Seeing as we’re a generation of people who are terrified of answering the phone, networking doesn’t exactly scream FUN. But for many, it’s an essential part of climbing the career ladder and can be a great way of meeting potential new employers and peers.
Getting to know other people in your industry can not only enrich your future prospects and encourage opportunity but also create a network of people who have similar interests and day to day lives as you. And as Careers Expert at LinkedIn, Sarah Seymour, tells Cosmopolitan “networking can seem like quite a daunting process, but it’s something that should be rewarding and even enjoyable!”
Here, she shares her six ways to use networking to your advantage.
1.Know what you can offer
“When you’re attending a networking event, go into it having considered what you can offer your peers,” Sarah advises. “Your experience and skills make you unique, and it may surprise you who is interested in finding out more about your work. A useful trick is to have an elevator pitch ready about your career to date, making your areas of expertise clear for anyone you chat to. Putting this together should be great self-esteem boosting exercise too!” Don’t be afraid to shout about your achievements and your career up to this point, as well as where you hope to go in the future.
2. Be prepared
Have your networking face on, chat to everyone – and be prepared to remember a lot of names! “In addition to your elevator pitch, a couple of basic principles can get you a long way when prepping for a big networking event,” the career expert continues. “Make sure that along with a friendly and positive attitude, you have your business cards and firm handshake ready. It’s easy for people to lose a business card though, so after the event, always connect with people you’ve met on LinkedIn and follow up with a friendly message about anything you chatted about.”
3. Use multiple methods
While networking was once reserved for industry events, think about how you can now use your online presence to reach out to people. “As well as connecting with those you’ve worked with and met, consider reaching out to others in your industry with a quick note explaining why you would like to connect,” Sarah continues. “LinkedIn also has a Career Advice mentoring tool which can match you to mentors in your chosen industry so you can tap into their expert knowledge and skills.”
4. Make sure your own professional profiles are up to scratch
If you’re planning on reaching out to others on Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn after the event, be prepared for them to do the same to you. Like Sarah says, “it’s also worth making sure that your profile shows off your skills and experience for your new connections to see. Sharing status updates with your network, such as a big project you’ve completed or exciting company news, can help to get you noticed by others in your industry. LinkedIn also helpfully reminds you if someone you know has had a work anniversary or even been promoted, so a quick message of congratulations can be a great way to start a wider business conversation.
5. Remember, networking isn’t just for specific events
“We’re seeing a lot more people working remotely or freelancing across many different sectors,” the careers expert says. “This means that you don’t need to limit networking to specific events within your industry, and opportunities may present themselves in previously unexpected places – such as cafés and flexi working spaces – so always keep your eyes open! The more diverse your professional network, the more inspiration you’ll get from it.” Don’t reserve eye-opening chats for after work drinks or amongst professional peers – you never know who might be a useful contact to make.
6. Know that it’s not ~all~ about climbing the ladder
While networking can ultimately land you your dream job, it’s not a failure if you don’t manage it straight away. As Sarah says, “People often have a misconception that the only aim of networking is always to gain something from someone else. Whilst we want to make contacts that can help us out down the line, we shouldn’t forget that a bit of give and take is always helpful; much like how we treat our friends, the relationship with professional connections should be a two-way street.” Creating those bonds could prove handy later down the line – perhaps when a job comes up, someone will have you in mind, or when you’re in need of a professional reference, they could help.
This article first appeared in Cosmopolitan.UK