We all have a basic grasp of networking. You meet people at events and gatherings to build contacts which might be beneficial in the future. But what does it mean to be a good networker? What is the real value of networking? And how can you learn to use your existing networks better?
Networking is an essential part of any professional’s career. Whether you’re trying to connect with potential employers, find a mentor, or open up new business opportunities, networking can be the key to success. While it may seem daunting, the simple steps below can help you get on the way to networking effectively and unlocking new opportunities for your career.
Define your networking goals
Before starting any networking activity, it’s important to outline what you hope to gain from the experience. Establishing your personal and professional goals will help ensure that you are pushing yourself in the right direction. Think about what kind of opportunities you want to pursue, who you want to meet, or what sort of knowledge would be beneficial. By setting objectives, you can tailor your approach more effectively to maximise your results.
It may be the goals you outlined when you began your learning journey with the College for Adult Learning, or they could have changed over time. You might be prepared for a promotion, to enter a new industry, or simply to get a job. Whatever your objective is, pinpointing it will help you align your networking plan accordingly.
Using networking to create luck
Many great business owners will tell you that luck can play a huge role in getting to where you want to be. Being in the right place at the right time, knowing the right people, and having doors open for you are all examples of luck.
What if you could create your own luck?
Networking is a tool that creates luck by increasing your opportunity to be lucky. The larger your network, the more chances you have of knowing a contact that can help you when needed.
How you create these large networks can vary from industry to industry. It may be attending a convention or talking to local suppliers. The key to all of this is to make sure you’re doing all that you can to put yourself in these favourable positions. This is not always easy – if it was, everyone would be a master at it.
Leverage online tools
Now, networking isn’t all about face-to-face conversations and exchanges. Social media platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook can offer great opportunities for expanding your network and building new relationships with people in the same or a related industry. Sign up for professional sites like LinkedIn to stay in the know about upcoming events and industry news in your field. Connect with people from any area around the world and create meaningful business relationships on social media.
The College for Adult Learning’s LinkedIn professional networking group can be a great place to meet fellow alumni, grow your connections and interact with like-minded individuals. You may also find a mentor in your industry that has had a similar learning experience as you at CAL.
Attending networking events can be one of the most successful ways to build a network of professional contacts quickly. Check out upcoming events in your local area and plan to attend. Try to attend as many events as possible – you don’t want to miss out on new opportunities! Even if you only go for an hour or two, you can still come away with valuable connections. Make sure to bring plenty of business cards so that whoever you meet can easily stay in touch with you.
Foster relationships with your current connections
Once you have met someone and made a connection, it is important to build on that relationship and keep in touch. Don’t forget to exchange contact information so you can follow up with a quick thank-you note or email. Also, regularly reach out with messages of congratulations when they achieve something or just ask how they are doing. Investing time in current contacts helps nurture relationships, turning them into valuable connections who will be more likely to recommend new contacts or provide recommendations for your work.
Join Professional Organisations or Trade Associations
Becoming a member of a professional or trade organisation provides many opportunities to meet with colleagues who may eventually become valuable contacts. Not only can you learn from their experience, but also make important connections that can benefit your career or business.
There are many popular and leading trade associations and organisations in a range of industries in Australia.
Networking tricks and tips
You can use other tools to make sure you get the most out of your network. These are mostly social tips that will help you strengthen existing connections.
- Make a point to remember someone’s name when you meet them and repeat it back to them after they tell you. The simple act of recalling someone’s name will immediately build favour with the person
- Take notes. None of us have a perfect memory, but we all have access to a pen and paper or a smartphone. After a meeting, take the time to jot down what you talked about. Try to include as much detail as you can. Next time you have a meeting with this person, take a look at your notes. You can use your notes to connect with them on a personal level and show genuine interest in the things you learned.
- Using online resources to keep up to date with industry news and events
- Taking every opportunity to meet and develop relationships with others
- Follow up if you’ve met someone recently. Send them a message about how it was lovely to meet them – this breaks the ice and makes any future interactions much smoother.
This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to networking. We encourage you to read more and practise these skills to help develop your career further.