How to Use Networking to Advance Your Career

Posted by: Mia Lewis Post Date: 4th October 2018

You’ve arrived at a networking event. You feel nervous, and you don’t recognise anyone. After making fruitless small talk with a few people, you leave, not feeling it was worth the effort. You wonder how other leaders and managers use networking to advance their Career.

Sadly, this is the approach many new leaders and manager take to networking. The old saying ‘It’s who you know, not what you know’ rings true. Networking makes the business world go round, and if you know how to do it properly, you can open up many exciting career opportunities.

Benefits of networking to advance your career

Networking to Advance Your Career

Networking presents many benefits that go beyond expanding your social circle. When you engage in meaningful networking, you’ll find you can benefit in many ways:

  • Be exposed to different opportunities – creating and maintaining a network of great contacts offers you access to new opportunities. You may be headhunted by a great recruiter or recommended for a position before it’s advertised
  • Meet people with different views and new ideas – this helps challenge the way that you see yourself, your company, and even how you see the world. Learning about new points of view helps you to become a more balanced person
  • Build your credibility – when you show up and offer valuable feedback and conversation, you’re building your reputation and credibility which means people will look to you for advice and ask for your opinion on important matters
  • Push your personal growth – your journey of personal development is never-ending, you’ll always be learning and improving on what you know

Networking works best when your intention is to be valuable to your connections. If you go out to make a sale, or to be purely self-serving, you won’t make worthwhile connections or broaden your horizons. The best leaders network to offer value and learn, rather than to serve their own needs.

Get the basics right first

Have a supply of business cards that are easy to read and contain your key contact information. Turn up smartly dressed and well-presented, smile when you meet people and have a good handshake. These essential skills will help you make a good first impression.

Ask interesting questions, get interesting answers

When you’re meeting new people at a networking event, you should avoid falling flat in a conversation that dies after a few minutes. This means you need to actively listen to what answers you get to your questions, then lead the conversation to find out more. Here are some good questions that will get interesting answers:

  • What advice would you give to a new leader like me?
  • What does a normal day in the office look like for you?
  • How did you get into your current sector/industry?
  • What made you attend this event?
  • What challenges do you find stop you doing your job?

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Attend the right events

Honing your networking skills is one element, but if you’re attending the wrong events, you won’t make connections that fit your goals. If you’re new to networking or looking to refresh the events you attend, you can find a wide range of networking events on forums, personal recommendations, and social media.

Attending an event that’s a bit different or out of your comfort zone can help stretch your networking skills. But make sure you pick the event carefully.

Be clear on what you want to achieve

When you attend a networking event you should have an idea of what you want to achieve, or who you want to meet. If you can find out who is attending, or look to connect with someone of influence, ask for an introduction at the networking event. You’ll get more out of the networking event and your time spent there.

Maintain an online presence

Networking online is just as powerful as networking offline. Platforms such as LinkedIn are perfectly pitched to help you grow your network and find people in your sector. When you put out regular posts about your industry and engage in meaningful debates and conversation, you’ll get more exposure. Ensure that your profile is professional and portrays your experience and opinions in a positive and truthful light.

Follow up

When you meet someone, you should follow up the next day with a short email. If you connect with them on LinkedIn, you should follow up with a short message, saying it was nice to meet them and you hope to see them at the next networking event. Let the conversation flow and see what happens.

Conclusion

Networking is a fantastic way to build up your self-confidence, your knowledge, and most importantly, your connections. As with many elements of leadership and development, you need to go about it with the best intentions to offer value and create genuine connections. It’s a huge learning process but one that is rewarding, and when it’s done well, will advance your career and hone your skills as a professional communicator.

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