Face-to-face networking – and how to do it
We live in a world of social media where we can connect with others with just one click of a mouse or a tap on our smartphones. Online networking is easier and therefore more comfortable to engage in. Although a business site like ‘LinkedIn’ is a perfectly good way to grow your professional network, networking online should not be a substitute for meaningful interaction with others in your chosen sector or industry.
Learning to network face-to-face has many benefits: it is good practice for job interviews, it helps you hone speaking and listening skills and it helps you make a lasting impression on someone who might help you up the career ladder.
So, here are my top three tips on how to do it:
1) Attend events on your own
It can be tempting to go to a jobs fair or networking event with friends, but this can inhibit you and stop you from talking to employers directly. If you are there on your own, make eye contact and smile, you will soon get into conversation with someone new; many events give out name badges so it’s easy to start a conversation by asking about the company the other person works for when you have seen the name on their sticker, for example.
2) Plan your networking
Just as you plan for an interview, find out beforehand who will be attending the event and decide on two or three people to target. It’s about quality, not quantity. When I go to a trade fair, I spend a moment looking through the programme before I go in. I make an asterisk against the name of the companies/people I want to speak to and I go to them first. Have a notepad with you as your conversation partner might recommend something, like a website, that you might want to write down.
3) Follow up
Email the people you have met and thank them for their time. Think about another way to keep in contact; you could enquire about visiting their company or doing work experience there, or link up via social media and follow their company on LinkedIn, for example.
Networking is a good skill to master and having strong links to professional, like-minded people will stand you in good stead at all stages of your career. A personal recommendation can sometimes be the deciding factor when a company is looking at similar job candidates for a role. Adopt a ‘quality not quantity’ approach and make sure you thank people for any help they give you along the way.