Seven tips for successful networking
There’s an old saying that it’s not what you know but who you know. It’s true that connecting with the right people is a hugely beneficial way of building your experience, confidence and knowledge.
During my coaching work with many different leaders, I’ve found that women tend to be more natural and comfortable with networking compared to men. However, what women are not so good about is intentionally making time for it. And women will often tell me it’s because they simply don’t have the time.
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Being intentional about networking is key because strong, effective networking isn’t something that can be left to chance or opportunity. Instead, it needs focus and commitment to making it happen. Whilst the growth of social media means we are connected to more people than ever before, seeing the latest status update from someone you met once isn’t true networking and has limited value.
Networking is about human connection and ‘giving’ to others. My work and research with managers and leaders shows that networking is a key skill of being a ‘Pilot’, one of the five roles I identified as key for driving great performance. It is the ‘Pilot’ who excels at forming strong interpersonal connections with others to allow him/her insight into the best possible way to guide, support and manage them.
Women are often guilty of trying to do everything themselves but the most effective networkers are not afraid to get others involved and use their colleagues and assistants to help them connect more effectively. So, here are my top 7 tips for the time-poor networker.
- To meet new people and fire up your network, think about the types of people you’d like to meet and ask friends/contacts/ex-colleagues to introduce you.
- Think about the people and team around you. For example, could you use an assistant or team member to help you research a relevant article that someone you have made contact with might find useful?
- Plan your networking – who do you want to meet at the event you are going to? Ask your assistant / team for the list of attendees in advance and target the people that you feel will matter to you most.
- Don’t rely on Linkedin to keep the relationship going. Instead, make a commitment to speak on the phone to one or two contacts each week and put it in your diary.
- Have your elevator pitch ready – what do you want people to remember about you? Prepare your 30-second piece so that when you introduce yourself, you leave them with your core message.
- Before going to an event or networking opportunity, think about two questions that you can ask to start the conversation and make you feel comfortable, confident and in-control. ‘What’s been your favourite part of the event so far?’ is always an easy one to get the conversation going.
- Always carry business cards – you’re more likely to connect via social media afterwards if you’ve exchanged business cards, and use them to write about the key facts, conversation points, whether that person has children, what’s important to them. Don’t leave it to your memory.
*Jane Sparrow runs a management and leadership consultancy and will be writing regularly for Workingmums.co.uk. Check out Jane's blog here - it has tips and advice for managers and her website has tools, including video footage of leadership role models. For further insight about how to be a great ‘Pilot’, visit www.TheCultureBuilders.com