Five Top Tips For Effective Networking
Networking events can be intimidating, and are often viewed as competitive environments where an assortment of strangers work to assert their vying levels of success and charisma. For those who frequently attend such events, networking can seem like a pointless exercise in collecting business cards whilst trying not to scoff too many canapes. These misconceptions should be put aside; networking can be a brilliant way of building and strengthening connections, allowing you expand your web of contacts.
Here are our top five tips for getting the most out of your networking experiences:
Value quality over quantity
Viewing any event in a competitive manner, aiming to connect with as many people as possible within the time frame, is a strategy doomed to failure. By spreading yourself thinly across too many people you run the risk of appearing one-dimensional, and are unlikely to get any real insight into the careers of those you speak to. Commit to building fewer, more valuable connections. Invest time in a couple of individuals, rather than skirting over a dozen. You’ll be able to form the strong basis of a couple of relationships which are more likely to be carried through to further communication. Time spent as an intermediary introducing and connecting other people can also be hugely beneficial – should their relationship thrive they will remember your involvement, and likely be keen to return the favour.
Confidence is widely viewed as attractive, with those in positions of power often exuding confidence and charisma. If you feel you’re not naturally confident, pay particular attention to your posture and body language. Adopting powerful body language is proven to effect how you behave. When taking on a ‘power pose’ for just a couple of minutes the level of testosterone you produce increases, whilst cortisol (often termed the ‘stress hormone’) levels are reduced. This confident stance will therefore increase your assertiveness and charisma, improving how you are perceived within a wider group. Be careful not to confuse confidence with arrogance though. Nobody wants to spend time with an individual who believes (or appears to believe) that they are superior to those around them.
Ask questions and really listen to the answers
A common misconception is that networking is all about talking. Far more important than talking is the quality of your listening, a skill we never actively think to practice or refine. Many people listen simply to respond; try to engage with the material and seem interested in other people’s work. This will engender a far more favourable response, and will make the other person much more likely to reciprocate the effort you put in. When phrasing your questions, think about what you can get out of the interaction; spend at least a few minutes before the networking session considering what questions are most pertinent to the knowledge or connections you wish to obtain.
First Impressions count
In a context where time is limited, first impressions matter. Dress to impress; being overdressed will never be an issue in a networking context, but underdressing can write you off many peoples’ radars. Perfect a strong handshake. Ensure that you don’t have food in your teeth before trying to woo a future client. Work on how to open a conversation with confidence and clarity. If you have a guest list, prepare by researching the other people attending the event. This will allow you to cut through the multitudes of people to the relevant contact. And, it will give you the appropriate background to start a conversation of mutual interest.
After investing time researching the other people at an event, listening carefully to what they have to say and laughing at all of their jokes, make sure that you continue to put in the effort by following up on the connection. Follow up a particularly engaging conversation about a mutual interest or debateable issue with an email. If looking for something less direct, add your new contact as a connection on LinkedIn. This will allow to view each other’s CVs, and will establish a platform for interaction in the future.
Alexandra Jane writes graduate careers advice for Inspiring Interns, a graduate recruitment agency. Check out their website to see which internships and graduate jobs are currently available. Or, if you’re looking to hire an intern, have a look at their innovative Video CVs.