With the increasing use of online networking tools, a growing number of professionals are left wondering how to network in the real world. Whilst the use of professional networking sites has its advantages in today’s workplace, learning to network effectively face-to-face is an invaluable tool and more powerful and beneficial than online platforms.
There’s an increasing trend for organisations to seek out professionals who not only have the required skills to do the job, but who can also act as business partners through successful communication and engagement with internal and external stakeholders.
The development of a strong network requires making connections that will sustain more than a simple introduction; a successful professional relationship takes time and effort to build.
Robert Walters country manager, Suzanne Feeney said: "It's important to take a 'long term view' attitude to networking and not be disheartened if you don’t see instant results. You may be lucky, however, as more often than not you will see opportunities open up to you over time, all of which can be traced back to the effort you put in when you started networking."
What makes a successful network?
A successful network requires a mutual understanding from the start - it is about what you can do for your contact and what they can do for you. The development of a strong network requires making connections that will sustain more than a simple introduction; a successful professional relationship takes time and effort to build. Those connections, and the support required to maintain them, are the necessary ingredients to developing a network.
How to network and build professional relationships
Not sure where to begin? Follow these 4 tips to networking and you will be well on your way to expanding your network.
1. Network with a purpose
Do not go to a networking event or join a forum aimlessly. Remember your overall goal is to meet professionals that you can help and vice versa.
2. Concise communication
Communicate effectively. Be articulate, concise and enthusiastic about what you do. It’s all about balance so remember to listen and ask questions when engaged in conversation and whatever you do, do not come on too strong about what you want and your agenda.
Speak with as many people as you can at a networking function – you never know who’s there. Establish the basics and arrange another time to have a more detailed discussion so you are not using all of your time talking to a few people. You’re not going to remember everyone’s name, so it’s important that you initiate the exchange of business cards before the conversation is over.
4. Follow up
Always follow up within a couple of days post the meeting, to ensure your hard work hasn’t gone to waste. The channel you use to connect should depend on the importance of the contact to you and your overall goal – phone and email are the most personal, followed by a professional networking site such as LinkedIn if the contact is someone you’d like to have in your wider network.