Guide to Networking
Networking is all about making mutually beneficial connections with people in relevant fields; whether you are looking to generate business or find a new employer.
It is estimated that only a third of jobs are now advertised using traditional media outlets. Some don’t even make it as far as an advert - as the saying goes: “It’s not what you know it’s who you know”. So learning to network effectively is an invaluable skill; get it right and other people will do your marketing for you through word of mouth recommendations.
Here we summarise the two primary types of networking; events and online.
Networking events are designed to give you access to new people with whom you may be able to do business or who may end up being potential employers/employees.
Some events are subscription-based where you pay an annual fee to be invited to regular (usually monthly) gatherings. These can be really useful for building relationships with a core group of individuals in your industry/sector.
If you can’t pay a subscription, there are other options. You can meet with people that are interested in similar fields by attending a relevant conference, lecture or seminar. Remember, your alumni network is vast. The events we host at Brunel give you the opportunity to meet fellow alumni at receptions before or after various lectures and at networking events – for free.
If you’re a bit shy, begin with an event where you know you’ll have something in common with others (such as a public lecture about one of your passions). Discussing a topic of mutual interest with other delegates is a good icebreaker. Prepare some other icebreakers in advance, smile, ask questions and listen attentively. Remember – practice makes perfect!
Key points to remember:
- First impressions count – present yourself well and act professionally at all times.
- Your business cards are not flyers – only give them to people with whom you have a genuine conversation.
- Networking is not ‘pitching’ – it is about building relationships from which business/employment may eventually come. Do not try and sell – either your product or your own skills - to someone upon first meeting them.
- Introduce and be introduced – it’s not just about what YOU can get out of it. Help others to connect by introducing them where appropriate. Being a facilitator is all part of the process – it builds trust.
- Keep your promises – if you say you’ll follow-up with someone, do so. It helps to build a reputation for reliability. Why not connect on LinkedIn as a first step?
Networking events make up only part of the picture. Online networking is becoming more and more important - and highly effective. You should use both events and online networking together.
Key points to remember:
- Be professional – behave online as you would in person. Be polite, courteous and professional. If you get involved in a discussion, publicly ridiculing or belittling someone will reflect badly on you. Be tactful if you offer an opposing argument. If you wouldn’t do it in person, don’t do it online.
- Your online profile – be aware of what others can see of you online, such as the things you ‘like’ on Facebook, the groups you belong to on LinkedIn, public photos of yourself. Would you like a prospective employer to see these? If not, do something about it. Check your privacy settings – especially on Facebook.
- Join groups/use hashtags – find relevant groups on Facebook and LinkedIn, join them and get involved in discussions. Get your name out there. Similarly with Twitter, follow relevant individuals/organisations, reply/retweet where appropriate and use hashtags to get involved in discussions.
- Don’t use txtspk – even though you’re online, try not to use lots of abbreviations; it looks unprofessional and can be easily misinterpreted.
- Unsolicited connecting – when someone that you have never met or heard of adds you on LinkedIn or Facebook, don’t you find that slightly odd? If you try and connect with seemingly random people, they may think this about you. Instead, find a mutual connection who can introduce you.
If you have further questions about networking, why not ask a friend or colleague who has experience of it? Better still, join the Brunel Alumni LinkedIn Group and ask your fellow alumni for some advice!