Networking often makes people feel uncomfortable. However, when done properly, it can be engaging, social and fun. What’s more, it’s like most things in life: the more you do of it, the better you get. Here are some pointers to help you expand your current network, increase your circle of contacts and – very possibly – get you the job you want.Give to receive
Networking isn’t a one-way street: if you’re meeting people because you think they’ll automatically give you something you want, you might be disappointed. Instead, networking is about listening first and asking later. So be curious, friendly and interested: show that you care about what they do and who they are. Don’t gush with compliments but be mature, confident, and polite. It not just about contacts
One of the most frequent mistakes people make is thinking that professional success is 'all about contacts'. It isn’t. Contacts help, definitely, but knowing the 'right' person won’t be your passport to a great job if you lack the talent, experience and intelligence. So be brutally honest with yourself. Knowing people in the business you want to work in will help you – but only if you have the aptitude and drive to work in that field.
Networking isn’t about spending endless hours on LinkedIn. It’s about using different media: email, social media, the phone, a letter and – above all – meeting in person. There’s an element of surprise here, too. If you click on someone’s profile on LinkedIn, you’ll be like 99% of people; if you call them out of the blue, you’ll be in the one percent and stand out. And isn’t that what you want? The more creative the field, often the more creative your approach can be. However, don’t be too outlandish, in which case you’ll come across as an attention-seeker.
Good networking happens when you make the first move. So be proactive and, when you meet the person, politely define what you’re looking for. It’s tempting to keep an open mind about your options, but often the more precise you are, the more successful you’ll be. Equally, sometimes making the first move can be met with silence or rejection. In which case, roll with it: you just have to take the knocks and move on.
Networking shouldn’t feel tough: when it does, you’ll come across as awkward and stressed – and that’s the last thing you want. So polish off your emotional intelligence so you know what to ask and when to listen. View networking as a bit of a journey and sense of fun: though you’ve obviously got a professional aim in mind, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t enjoy it along the way.