In an age where a significant fraction of our work is done digitally, we can often forget the value of a face-to-face interaction. With our world being so notably dominated by social media, we have become reliant on digital forms of networking, such as via emails and LinkedIn. What results from this is that we often forget how important in-person networking can be, and how many benefits it can provide us with.
The problem with our advanced technologies – as well as our reliance on them – can mean that some of us feel that our interpersonal skills are perhaps not up to scratch, at least with regards to corporate settings. This leaves many feeling confused or unsure of how to get started when it comes to professional networking. The first step is recognising the right events for you – something which only a mere 13% of jobseekers currently do. Research any upcoming events in your area and find out which ones are relevant to you, using sites such as www.eventbrite.co.uk or www.meetup.com. Try to find out who’ll be attending in order to narrow down your options. Even if you’re not currently job searching, networking events can be beneficial in building useful contacts for the future, or for getting your company’s name out there.
Once you identify which events will be beneficial for you to attend, decide a plan of action for what to do once you get there. Our top ten tips would include the following:
1) Contact exhibition/event organisers to get on their radar. They will interact with other event organisers in the local vicinity and may introduce you to like-minded business contacts.
2) Before attending, gather Marketplace Information, specific to companies being represented at the event. Very few job seekers think of accessing influential contacts through industry or trade association to assist their job search. However, you should. They are likely to have information about the market you are interested in.
3) Knowledge and information is available many ways: online, print, people - and of course, social media. Networking - talking to people - is key to search success - you do it every day without knowing that you do it and it’s essential.
4) Review your list of target companies or contacts attending the event. Target speaking to 10 people and take interest in whatever is interesting to each of these people at the event.
5) Work out your 30 second pitch, and practise it repeatedly.
6) Badge watch - read name badges and memorise names. This will not only make a good first impression on the individual, but they’re likely to then remember yours.
7) Business cards – it’s an easy way to remember people’s names. Offering yours at the beginning and receiving one in return helps to remember people’s names, and it could be useful having their professional details for later.
8) Use the opportunity as a resource. As well as providing you with new contacts, networking events can also provide you with new knowledge about your industry. Attending corporate events means you will be surrounded by like-minded individuals in your field, and a mere conversation can inundate you with new information.
9) Introduce yourself and praise something about the contact - or better still, discuss recent publicity for the individual’s company. This could include an article, a campaign, or even a recent award or accomplishment.
10) Follow up after the event – capture contact details and get in touch, with a key point raised during the event.
Attending events or professional get-togethers might not seem like a crucial use of your time. However, the importance of networking should never be underestimated, particularly during your job search. Networking is your strongest weapon for getting in front of business owners, so you should utilise it to the best of your ability – you never know which introduction could become the key stepping stone toward your next big opportunity.
For advice on your job search, contact Stafffinders.