Networking can’t (and shouldn’t) replace talent. But if you network actively, you have a far greater chance of having your talent recognised.
Here are some top tips on networking effectively to find a new job, make a career change or get promoted.
1. Make time to network. Don’t network only when you’re in a fix – make networking a habit to build a rich and diverse resource you can call on when in need.
2. Understand that giving is better (and often more effective) than getting. One sided relationships where they give and you take eventually turn sour. Flip the coin and find things you can give – information, an introduction, a quick phone call – that’s easy (for you) yet valuable (to them).
3. Connect people. Make a point of introducing people in your network who have shared interests. The more you are known as someone who knows interesting people, the more people will want to be linked to you, and the more effective your network becomes.
4. Value your acquaintances and friends. Friends often don’t have access to new information. So don’t disregard ‘mere’ acquaintances who can often point out opportunities that you hadn’t heard about on the grapevine.
5. Appreciate the iceberg. Most people’s networks are largely invisible to all but their closest friends. Remove your blinkers and connect with lots of different people. You can never, ever predict who knows who, and who will be able to introduce you to someone who could move your career in a new direction.
6. Build rapport. If someone doesn’t warm to you, they’re unlikely to help, even when asked. So build rapport with your contacts – by listening, seeking common ground, and helping out where possible.
7. Nurture your network. Even the most superficial relationships are based on trust, and that takes time to build. So make an effort to stay in touch, and strengthen the tie.
8. Network internally. Don’t stay stuck behind your desk, working away diligently but anonymously. Make a point of chatting to people internally – in the lift, at the water cooler – so that when your name comes up, you’ll always have an advocate.
9. Raise your profile. Blow your own trumpet, gently! Attend professional meetings, lectures and conferences, and get involved where you can. That way, people are more likely to think of you when an opportunity arises.
10. Practice makes perfect. If you find aren’t comfortable chatting to strangers, practice in an unthreatening environment: at the post office, in the supermarket check-out queue. After a while, you’ll be able to start a conversation with almost anybody, anywhere.