Throughout this blog, I have made no secret of my enjoyment of networking. Over the years, I have attended many networking events, seminars, public lectures, as well as various professional gatherings, of which I have met hundreds of people from various backgrounds. From politicians, chief executives, solicitors, accountants, entrepreneurs, and many others, I have had the pleasure of listening and learning from many interesting conversations and discussions.
With job security at a premium these days, today’s professionals need to develop relationships with clients from other industries. This is where the ability to network with other people becomes an important skill to learn, however it can also be understandably intimidating for many.
Networking is more than just about meeting people and exchanging business cards. It is actually about getting to know people through the art of conversation, and to develop a sense of rapport, through listening and understanding the needs of others. Through this, professionals can discover what they have in common with others, and this helps to lay the foundations for successful networking.
There are so many resources on networking, from books, online articles, podcasts and more. With so much information available, I have drawn on my own experiences, and condensed my thoughts into some brief, but hopefully useful starting points, to help others in their networking endeavours. From the points I have listed below, I hope these will not only be beneficial for networking newcomers, but also for experienced networkers to consolidate their own skills.
- When introducing yourself, relax, smile and warmly shake hands.
- Develop relationships over a long-term meaningful basis.
- Think about how you can address somebody else’s professional or business needs.
- Understand your values, strengths and weaknesses.
- Remember to be honest and genuine!
- Respect the opinions of others.
- Conduct yourself in a professional manner.
- Avoid speaking about anything commercially or politically sensitive.
- Listen first and then speak.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
- Keep politics to a minimum.
- If you exchange contact details, follow up straight away and keep in touch.
To summarise the points made, successful networking is simply showing your authentic self, and connecting with others. This is done by listening, learning and understanding what you have in common with other people that you meet and converse with. Although it is intimidating to converse with strangers at first, remember that networking takes practice, so don’t worry if you struggle initially. With time and patience, you can become better and more confident at networking.
So what I have learned through networking? For a start, I have become more comfortable with conversing with people from different backgrounds. It has also allowed me to broaden my horizons and understanding of other industries, outside of my own. As a result, networking has pushed me out of my comfort zone, enriching my professional and personal life, which has given me more confidence. Finally it has also allowed me to listen and learn from my peers, and from those more experienced than myself.
In conclusion, I have not only developed my networking and communication skills, but I have also been able to create and carefully nurture professional relationships. It has also allowed me to create and share online content produced on this blog, as well as promoting professional content created by others. Therefore if I can benefit from networking, then you can also benefit from it too!
Thank you for reading!