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The Secrets to Effective Networking
Most students believe job success boils down to good grades and strong skills, but few fail to recognise the true power of networking.
Maybe they feel shy or uncomfortable approaching strangers at events and conferences, or maybe they don’t think knowing other industry professionals will be able to assist in their careers.
The truth is that no matter what industry you’re in, networking helps. Networking establishes you within the industry, and it can help you score your dream job.
Want to be an expert networker? Here are the secrets to effective networking.
Build a Strong LinkedIn Profile
These days, networking extends online more than ever. If you don’t have a LinkedIn profile yet, then you should consider creating one right now.
Though not as popular as Facebook or Twitter, LinkedIn is the social network of the professional world. It’s a place for all industry professionals to share relevant content and keep in touch. The site also makes it easier to keep track of all your connections and stay in contact.
When building your profile, follow these simple tips:
- Complete your profile from start to finish
- Make sure you have a professional-looking photo
- Provide links to any work you’ve done to show off your skills
Once completed, you’ll be ready to network.
See our page: Writing an Effective LinkedIn Profile for more.
When you’re at an event, you may feel like you need to work the room. You might think you need to talk to everyone around you and make sure everyone sees your face.
In reality, the exact opposite is true.
You don’t need to be a perfect social butterfly in order to network. Your goal should be to make real, genuine connections with people at events. Be genuine and listen to what others have to say. Ask questions to keep the conversation going and look for ways that you might be able to help out the other person. If you spend 45 minutes of a two-hour event talking in earnest with one person, that is fine. You made a good connection, and you’ll have a better chance of that person remembering you further down the line.
While having short conversations with a lot of people isn’t bad, it’s not the only way to network. If networking still intimidates you, focus on speaking at length with at least one or two people. It will make networking seem more manageable.
Connect With Anyone
When networking at an event, you don’t have to limit yourself to speaking with hiring managers and top executives only.
Don’t ever ignore someone or turn down an opportunity for a conversation. You have no way of knowing what the future holds, and that one conversation could make a huge impact on your future.
Like your career, other people change jobs and move to different companies all the time. If you think speaking with a low-level manager is a waste of time, remember that the person may not be a low-level manager forever. In a few years, that low-level manager may start a company of his or her own. You could miss out on some great job opportunities and experiences if you ignore certain people.
Don’t forget that those managers and employees have network friends too - some that may be much higher up. You don’t know who everyone else knows, and how their friends could potentially help you in the coming years.
Remember, top executives might not be there in a year. Don’t focus so much on speaking to those with power. Be friendly with everyone.
Follow Up Meetings with A ‘Thank You’
Whenever you make a new contact, always follow up with a quick ‘thank you’ email.
This is a polite way of reminding your contact of your encounter, and it opens the lines of communication. Your contact will recognise your email address and be more willing to take questions from you in the future.
Keep your thank you email short and concise. Thank them for their time and promise to look for them at the next event. If you feel comfortable, you might ask to grab coffee or lunch one day, but don’t feel like you have to right away.
Enrol in Short Courses
People of all stages in their careers know the value of going back to school and enrolling in short courses.
Industries are changing all the time and, in order to be competitive in the market, many people will take a short course to improve or learn a new skill.
These courses are a great opportunity to meet industry professionals and get to know them on a more personal level. After all, you’ll be with them in the classroom for several weeks. Now is your chance to start communicating and make a solid connection.
TAFE courses are excellent places to meet great industry leaders. Their courses are often short and held at convenient times for working individuals. Of course in addition to networking, you’ll also learn a valuable skill that will help you beat out the competition in the job market. What’s more, you’ll already have industry professionals who can attest to your skill level.
Keep in Touch
You’re at an annual event, and you see someone you met at the same event last year. You go to say hello, but he doesn’t seem to remember you at all. Why not?
Building a network of industry experts takes more than just one-time encounters. You have to nurture your relationships. Most of this comes from keeping in touch with your contacts, even if you only email them every few months or send them a relevant industry article on LinkedIn.
There’s a reason people say, “It’s not what you know. It’s who you know.” Networking can jumpstart your career and give you insider access to companies you’d love to work for.
About the Author
Caroline Schmidt writes the blogs for Kangan Institute. She is passionate about education, careers, and giving advice to students of all ages.