If you’ve landed on our blog because you’re looking for networking tips, we’ve a hunch that you’re trying to grow your business, get more clients on board or look for opportunities to learn and develop your skills.
And these are all excellent reasons to engage in some professional networking. By its definition, the term ‘networking’ refers to the exchange of information and the concept of developing one’s professional or social contacts.
But it can be hard to do. Some people like the idea of networking but don’t know how to get started. Others may be shy or introverted and feel daunted by the prospect of having to meet and talk to people they don’t know. Perhaps you’re not convinced of the value of networking and need to understand more about whether it’s worth your while.
Whatever your knowledge of networking – our top 5 networking tips will give you a few points to think about.
- Networking may not benefit you immediately
Sometimes, the term ‘networking’ can be a bit off putting to some professionals. If you re-frame the concept and think of it as ‘future opportunity creation’, it can help you assess its value more clearly.
Networking doesn’t have to bring rewards immediately. Sometimes you’ll meet a contact who can’t provide anything to you right now, but may be someone who is ideal for giving you advice or assistance sometime in the future.
You may attend a networking event and meet a handful of people who are nice enough but work in a very different industry or business type. Hold on to their details and don’t be afraid to call on them in the future if you’re recruiting, developing your client base or need fresh perspective on a project – this is the power of building a strong network.
- Know where to look
You don’t need to attend a specific networking event to be able to meet people who could help you professionally or socially. Any environment in which there are other professionals or like-minded individuals can become a networking opportunity.
Conferences, shows, awards evenings, meetups, even shared offices and co-working spaces can provide an opportunity for networking.
Event websites like Eventbrite are a great place to start as they share upcoming listings in your local area and you can search by date, event or location. For large scale networking opportunities, you can also visit event venues’ websites and take a look at any shows or exhibitions they have coming up that might be relevant to you.
- Tap into professional networking sites
Networking doesn’t have to take place face to face. Professional networking sites like Linkedin and Meetup allow you to create and join groups, meet people and share knowledge and content with contacts without ever needing to meet in person.
Also don’t be afraid to use your own personal social media network to help boost your professional profile or expand your knowledge. Often, friends can be extremely valuable sounding boards or advisors, especially when they’re the kind of friends who will be brutally honest with you. They may know of someone who is perfect for a role you’re recruiting for, or perhaps have connections who could turn into clients for your business.
- Don’t burn bridges
The world of business is a rich melting pot of personalities, characters and emotions. People sometimes post inflammatory content or opinions on networking sites, or you may meet someone at a networking event with whom you just don’t click. Stay professional, be polite and if they ask to connect, remember that networking is about opportunity – you don’t need to become lifelong friends!
Being rude or condescending can have a knock on effect on your networking reputation. Be nice. It’ll benefit you a lot more than you might think.
- Make a great first impression
You’ll need to be memorable for all the right reasons! When meeting new contacts, be genuine and warm, ask questions and seek to learn and engage. Handing out your card and introducing your business is fine but don’t try to sell your services directly.
Offering help can also be a great way of networking. If you’re engaged in a conversation with someone who has a real business challenge that you believe you can fix, offer to connect with them outside of the event and explain how you might be able to help. Your skills, knowledge and personality are all key assets when it comes to networking – so be yourself, take a deep breath and go for it!
If you’re interested in finding out how to grow your network through renting shared office space, check out our co-working community to see whether this could be your ideal new work environment!