By Tricia Hay and David Tovey
You can be the most talented person around, but if you are not well connected through your professional network you can easily miss out on rewarding and exciting career opportunities.
Building an effective professional network should really start as soon as you are considering embarking on your chosen career – even if you are still in full time education. Don’t be put off by the thought of building a network, it’s easier and more fun than you might think!
I don’t know what to say
The most basic mistake even seasoned business networkers make is thinking that it’s all about being a great talker, having the ability to have interesting things to say. In reality, the greatest networking skill is listening – demonstrating genuine interest in other people.
The most boring people in social situations are the people who talk about themselves all the time. It’s no different with your professional connections. You will soon find, on and off line, that you make more friends by being interested in other people. Sure there is a time when you will need to tell your story, but by demonstrating interest in other people first you will earn the right to be listened to. Listening to your network will inform you about what they are interested in, meaning you can tailor what you say about yourself in a way that adds value.
Networking is a pro-social behavior that works on the principle of reciprocity. Other people feel more inclined to invest time and effort in you if you invest time and effort in them first.
What – not engaging on LinkedIn?
LinkedIn is by far the most important on line business networking tool. Don’t treat it just as a static place to store you CV though – be proactive. Post updates that your target connections (potential employers, influencers and recruitment consultants) will find interesting. Set yourself apart by demonstrating your credibility and knowledge by sharing or writing interesting content. Follow people that you would like to connect with. Engage with their posts, make comments and request a connection – don’t just send your CV.
Don’t forget to connect with your recruitment consultants on line too. That way you stay top of mind when they have opportunities you might be interested in.
If you are interested in a particular industry or profession, check out the places people in that industry hang out on line. Most have forums and discussion groups that you can participate in in order to get known and build your reputation.
It’s not all on line
There are numerous local, regional and national industry and business events that you can attend and many have networking sessions as part of the event. The rules are the same – ask questions and show interest in other people. Listen to what they say and you might just find they are people you need in your network.
When it’s your turn to talk
Learn how to sum up your story and ‘position’ yourself in less than two minutes. In business it’s sometimes called your ‘elevator’ story. Can you say something interesting enough in a two-minute elevator ride that will engage other people?
If you have listened effectively you will soon be able adapt what you say to the individual or group that you are speaking with.
Network with colleagues
We often find that candidates know little or nothing about other parts of the business they already work for. Build internal networks, show interest in other parts of the company and you might just find that the connections you need are right on your door step!
If you’d like to know more about how networking can give you career a boost contact Tricia Hay on 01453 755330.