Networking Strategies For Career Progression
Networking Strategies For Career Progression
Networking is a funny thing. For some people the very idea sends shivers down their spine, for others it’s an exciting prospect.
Regardless of your personal feelings, networking is essential to so many industries. Learning how to implement successful networking strategies is an important skill that could accelerate your career progression.
In today’s article we’re going to cover types of networking, how to prepare for networking events, what questions you’ll be asked and which questions you should be asking.
What is networking?
Networking isn’t simply talking to people at a conference or grabbing a drink after an industry event. It’s about building relationships, establishing trust and nurturing long-term and mutually beneficial professional relationships. Networking is essential to building your career.
Types of Networking
Networking opportunities are all around us. From formal events like conferences to informal ones like catch-ups with friends. There are always opportunities to network.
Formal Networking Opportunities
Formal networking opportunities are events organised by industry groups or bodies and professional associations. This could be conferences, industry meet-ups, drinks or lectures and courses.
There are also formal networking opportunities that might fall outside your direct industry. This could through memberships with local business groups and community groups. And these networking opportunities can be very valuable as well.
Informal Networking Opportunities
There are opportunities for informal networking every day of your life. In line for coffee, catching up with friends, going to lunch with people from work. There are so many opportunities out there. Informal networking could be coffee with friends, community events, volunteering for organisations, even just meeting people when you’re out and about.
How to prepare for Networking events
When it comes to preparing for a networking event, there are few things to remember and to consider before you get out there.
Can you summarise what you do, why you’re good at it and what you’re looking to do next in a few sentences? Preparing a casual elevator pitch for networking events will help to communicate your value and your goals when meeting new people.
What do you want to get out of this networking event? Are you looking to find more clients for your business? Or perhaps a position in a different company? Are you trying to establish more supplier contacts or set up a new project or initiative? Having a clear idea of your goals will help you to formulate your networking approach and make the most of the event.
Before attending the event, research the guest list. You might be able to see who is attending on the online event invitation. Or you might just know of other people in your industry who could be there. Research them before you get there, know what they look like and what their role is. Doing this will help you establish a connection and remember who everyone is. It also helps you maximize the potential of the event.
If you’ve found a few connections you would really like to make at a networking event, then consider reaching out before the event happens. Hit them up on LinkedIn and let them know you’d love to meet them at the upcoming event. This means they will expect to see you and make the effort to meet you.
Contact info collection
Make sure you have a plan for how you are going to collect and give out contact information. Business cards are professional but can be easily discarded or forgotten in wallets. Making a connection online can be useful, but a combination of the two might be a good option. You could add a QR code to your business card that takes them to all your online contact info.
Get as much contact information as they are comfortable giving, getting phone numbers is the holy grail but for a lot of professionals that can be too personal so aim for LinkedIn contacts, memberships in social media groups, discord threads and email contact.
After the event is over be sure to follow up with your new contacts. When following up try to bring value to the table and create a friendly rapport.
- Thank them for the contact info and say it was great to connect
- Mention something they were looking forward to or had coming up and wish them luck
- Offer something of value like another connection they could use that you can link them up with or some free advice on what they were working on.
Following these steps when you follow up will help you to strengthen your connections.
Pay it forward
If you meet someone at the event who would be a good contact for another person you’ve met there, then pay it forward and introduce them to each other. Good networking isn’t just about helping yourself, it’s also about helping your contacts.
The MOST LIKELY QUESTIONS someone might ask you
- What does your business do?
- What is your unique selling proposition?
- How are you different from other businesses?
- How much experience do you have or how long have you been in the business?
Have your answers prepared and expect these questions to be asked. You don’t have to convince anyone to work with you at this stage – just be honest and truthful about your goals.
If you have no experience, say that you work with a business that has many years’ experience in your industry.
Questions YOU SHOULD be asking
- Where do you recommend I go while I’m here?
- How did you hear about this event?
- What is your favourite thing to do?
- What is on your reading list?
- What did you think about the event?
- What is your story?
- How did you decide to do what you do?
- What are some of your go-to resources for getting guidance in your field of work?
- How can I be helpful to you right now?
While it can be tempting when networking to focus on talking yourself up, it can helpful to remember that is not the goal.
What we are really trying to do when we network is to build meaningful and mutually beneficial connections.
Approach networking as a long-term game. Networking is about building relationships that will withstand the test of time and help you to build a long-term career with your contacts by your side. It’s not just about getting a job today, but about the lifetime value of that contact for jobs well into the future.
People do business with people they like.
For more information on a new way to network (not like the old way, the new way) check out Mark E. Sackett’s Ted Talk here.
Finally, how do you test if you’ve done a good job at networking?
Analysing results is one of the hardest tasks when it comes to determining the worth of your networking efforts. Think of it this way.
Name someone you would refer for each of the following professions.
- Financial Advisor
- Life Coach
- Real Estate Agent
- Dog Walker
- Insurance Broker
Do you have someone you would positively refer for each of the above? If not, you’ve still more work to do on your networking skills.
If you’re looking for ways to progress in your career, consider looking into leadership and management courses. These courses can be just the thing to put you over the edge for that next big role.