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The power of networking: how to make it work for you

Over the last decade, networking has turned into one of the most powerful ways to develop a career successfully. Many people dread it, for others it is second nature. The first group sees it has a ‘must do’ task and would rather avoid it, the second uses it as an opportunity to connect with the professionals they would like to do business with, learn from or be inspired by. Some people argue that they are not comfortable with the idea of making a hard sell of their skills, almost feeling like they are not genuine and true to their themselves when they have to do it.

In reality, networking does not need to be a sales exercise and even those who consider themselves hopeless at it can learn how to network successfully. The opportunities – both off and online - have increased exponentially over the last few years. The traditional face-to-face events remain the best way to get to know people and to forge long-term professional relationships. But they can also be the most challenging ones; at times, it can be difficult to attract somebody’s attention and introduce oneself in a social context with only a short amount of time available and a lot of other people waiting to be introduced. When it comes to online networking, social media like LinkedIn or Twitter are playing an increasingly important role; even though this might seem a less intimidating way to connect with new people, it still requires the same effort and time needed for face-to-face introductions. In both cases, there are a few best practices that can make networking more effective.

1. Describe what you do confidently and clearly
Be ready to explain your role and your organisation’s work in a simple yet detailed way so that the people you meet are clear about what you do and how you can potentially help them or one of their connections. It’s probably best to prepare an elevator speech; in this way, you will have a brief but effective description of your role always ready to go.

2. Do your homework
Whenever possible - both when attending an event or approaching potential contacts online - make sure that you are familiar with what they and their organisation do. This has the multiple purposes of showing that you made an effort to know more about them as well as being a good conversation starter and a useful source of information to find any points in common you might have with them.


3. Remember that it’s about reciprocal benefits
Once connecting with somebody, you need to make sure that they understand not only why you would be interested in building a relationship with them but also how they can benefit from it. People are extremely busy and they are introduced to potential connections all the time, so you need to stand out from the crowd and show them why you are worth their time and interest.

4. Keep engaging with your contacts
Creating a powerful network cannot be done overnight. Getting introduced or connecting with someone is only the starting point. Thanks to social media, it is easy to keep in touch with your connections regularly by sharing content, commenting on their blogs/profiles or simply dropping them a line to see how they are. The key rule is that you should avoid being in touch with them only when you need something.

5. It’s about quality not quantity
And finally, remember that networking is not about how many people you know, but about knowing the right people that might help you develop your professional profile or find your next job. In the long term, any of your connections might be instrumental in your career development but this does not mean that you should connect with somebody only for the sake of it.


The 2015 Women in Project Management National Conference will take place on Thursday 24th September.

9 comments

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  1. Edward Wallington
    Edward Wallington 28 September 2015, 08:37 PM

    Thank you for this post, the headline points you make are key take aways we can all learn from (and a refresher never hurts!).It is certainly true that some people do not 'like' networking, and 'never have anything to say'.  A conversation is as simple as asking 'have you travelled far today' and then can lead almost anywhere, especailly as you take control of it. Item 3 above is key - make sure you give, introduce, provide info etc - not just take.

  2. Valentina Lorenzon
    Valentina Lorenzon 29 September 2015, 08:16 AM

    I agree. Some people think too much about what to say and end up not saying anything at all. As you pointed out, it is as simple as asking about where they travelled from or if it is their first time at such an event, etc. But networking successfully depends on the confidence and personality of the individual and only practice can make it better.Valentina 

  3. Michael Nicholson
    Michael Nicholson 22 September 2015, 02:13 PM

    James.  What can I say?!  I agree with your comment about such guidance being particularly relevent to Services Leavers.  I hope the Liquid List follows the precepts of the advice offered and do firmly believe that networking should be fun as well as useful.  To me the networking process is analogous to crossing a stream by stepping stones; every stone is crucial to reaching the other side - take one away and you will get wet.  So a job seeker should not despair if networking is time consuming since, in the end, it is worth it.  All would do well to remember every ‘stones’ in that crossing because it may be necessary to return to the other side.  After all few have a job for life and not many want one, particularly ex Forces folk who, when they discover their true potential, are ambitious to move up the food chain.

  4. David Packham
    David Packham 23 September 2015, 08:46 PM

    Thank you for sharing your article, Valentina, most helpful. As is your analogy of networking as stepping stones, too, Michael.

  5. Michael Nicholson
    Michael Nicholson 22 September 2015, 02:13 PM

    James.  What can I say?!  I agree with your comment about such guidance being particularly relevent to Services Leavers.  I hope the Liquid List follows the precepts of the advice offered and do firmly believe that networking should be fun as well as useful.  To me the networking process is analogous to crossing a stream by stepping stones; every stone is crucial to reaching the other side - take one away and you will get wet.  So a job seeker should not despair if networking is time consuming since, in the end, it is worth it.  All would do well to remember every ‘stones’ in that crossing because it may be necessary to return to the other side.  After all few have a job for life and not many want one, particularly ex Forces folk who, when they discover their true potential, are ambitious to move up the food chain.

  6. Valentina Lorenzon
    Valentina Lorenzon 21 September 2015, 08:03 PM

    Thanks for your comment James. It's good to hear that you managed to make a transition into business. Networking can be such a powerful tool if used well.Best,Valentina

  7. James Fulton
    James Fulton 21 September 2015, 12:05 PM

    Good article, thank you for sharing. This does highlight to me that in many ways, the ex-military community in the UK are streets ahead of everyone else.  I managed to make the transition to business, partly through significant assistance through networking organisations such as thelistuk.com and Sandhurst in the City.  All networking is useful networking, and following the advice from Valentina will stand you in good stead.

  8. Richard Renshaw
    Richard Renshaw 21 September 2015, 10:47 AM

    @ Valentina, thank you for the good post, appreciated. I have shared with a number of LinkedIn groups. Thanks again.Kind regardsRichard 

  9. Valentina Lorenzon
    Valentina Lorenzon 21 September 2015, 08:01 PM

    Hi Richard,thank you for sharing with other groups.Best,Valentina