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How to network
Read our beginners' guide to networking and discover ways to reach out today.
What you will learn
- About the benefits of networking
- How to use your networks effectively
- How to plan what you want to get from your network
- How to use social media to your benefit
Networking can provide a range of benefits, including the exchange of knowledge, resources and ideas that can take your career to the next level, help gain valuable sector insights and also make friendships/connections along the way.
Networking can come in many different forms: meeting people one-on-one, having a regular video call with a mentor or peer (more now than ever), attending industry events or connecting via social media - such as LinkedIn. Similarly, networking can take place at work, in a meeting or at a social outing.
Any situation that involves interaction with other people poses an opportunity for expanding a professional network. Here are some key benefits of expanding your network.
Advance your career
Get access to job opportunities
Get career advice & support
Develop long-lasting personal relationships
Find a job you love
How to network
As much as networking is beneficial to your career and even your personal life, the reality is that it doesn’t come naturally to many people. In fact, for some, the thought of starting a conversation with a stranger at a conference or event incites downright dread.
A good rule of thumb is to plan ahead and have a few relevant points of discussion in mind if you know you’re going to be in a situation where you’ll have the opportunity to meet new people. These conversation points don’t have to be all about work – they can even be about topics like hobbies or the event itself.
The idea is to get the conversation flowing and leave room for future meetups and discussions. On that note, don’t forget to bring business cards so you can swap details easily.
Follow these 5 steps to networking
Be a good guest
Be friendly and open when you speak, if you see someone sitting alone, go and say hello.
Talk and listen
At networking events you need to talk to people! – but you’ve also got to be a good listener, otherwise you won’t know whether that person is the right person for you to be talking to and connect with. You can practise this on team meetings or even just with friends and family over dinner for example.
Take business cards/CV or LinkedIn
At networking events there is a lot of exchanging of business cards – when talking to someone, exchange business cards or CV so that they have a way of contacting you, or connect with them directly on LinkedIn at the event.
Note everything down
Keep a pen and notebook handy or note things on your phone or tablet, especially names, job titles and dates of contacts. If you keep a written record of who you’ve spoken to and their line of business, along with a few details it will help you remember what they do and jog your memory in the future.
This will help you to make good business connections as your contacts will remember you as the referrer.
Before you start looking for people and events to network with, you need to determine your goals.
Trying to find a new job is a good starting point, but it shouldn’t be the only goal. A good networking plan can help you develop your technical skills, improve your ability to communicate, create relationships with potential customers or clients, build your reputation within your field, and more.
Determine who in your industry is most likely to be in a position to help you reach your goals — then prioritise and establish those relationships.
Research and schedule networking events
There are numerous networking events in every field, and they come in a variety of different formats. You might consider finding conferences or conventions that are popular among people in your field, attending talks. Social media especially LinkedIn is a good resource for finding events, plus check out Meetup and Eventbrite for networking events.
Research who has been to the event before and take note of people you are wanting to network and connect with, also have a look at the feedback online to see if there is any additional information you can gather here. Always make sure the networking event can fit around you, many are during business hours but some are also after 5, select ones which best fit you.
Due to COVID-19 the majority are online via webinars. These are usually recorded and put online so this can be a great way to catch up with what has been said and connect on social media. Keep your eyes on LinkedIn groups and Facebook events and attend the ones that are of interest to you.
Some other articles you may find helpful
The future is digital – including your CV. Read our guide to building your profile from scratch.
Networking isn’t just formal – find out how different networks of people can help you get your next job.
Reaching out and presenting your best self to new people can feel daunting. But there are ways to help you prepare to put your best foot forward.