Networking isn’t just for partners
Belinda MorganView bio
Developing your social skills early on will set you up with the skills that you will use for the rest of your career. This includes interactions with colleagues, professionals and of course clients.
For some people this doesn’t come naturally, and there is a certain expectation to ‘just go and do it’ when you reach a particular level. But learning ‘good’ behaviours, and little tricks to help deal with that gut-wrenching moment when you walk into a room full of complete strangers can’t come early enough.
I’ve been fortunate in my career to be around people that have always been happy to share a nugget or two, and I’ve made a point to pass these on where I can. Below I have put together a few of my top tips for new starters, which can also act as a reminder for the seasoned pro too!
Clients are friends
One of the best pieces of advice I was given was to regard my clients as I do my friends.
Before going to an event, do a little preparation. If there’s a guest list issued in advance, see who’s going. Find out a little bit about them. To avoid getting stuck on conversation, check out current affairs, latest sport headlines and of course know some key information on what you are currently working on.
Dress for the event and don’t be late!
I have always advised that you dress appropriately for the occasion, but with us all having lived in shorts and flipflops for the past 18 months, I’m not sure if the advice holds these days. Jeans and a smart shirt/jacket seem to be acceptable in most day-time situations.
Always try to arrive early. Firstly, it is valuable networking time, and secondly you will find people arriving after you will want to come and join you.
Choose your group and get involved
When you walk into an event, don’t look startled or nervous; put a smile on your face and head for the drinks queue. You will meet someone there, so start talking. Walk away from the queue with them and carry on the conversation. If this doesn’t work for you, join what we call an ‘open’ group and ask if they mind you joining them. A closed group is usually 2 or 3 people that look like they are deep in serious conversation. Avoid these as they could be talking issues, fees, contracts etc and won’t appreciate you interrupting. If you see someone alone, this is usually a good option, and trust me, they will be grateful for the company.
Remember to participate
People go to networking events to network, so it’s highly unlikely that you won’t find anyone to talk to. When you meet someone for the first time, get their business card. Once you have finished your chat, write something on it to remind you who they are, something distinctive about them or the conversation you had. It’s very difficult to remember who’s who when you have a box full of cards. And make sure you have your business cards with you, they may well want to do the same. If you prefer the digital option, then make sure your LinkedIn profile is up to date and you have downloaded the app, you can use the LinkedIn QR code which links people to your profile.
Don’t feel pressured
As mentioned above, networking is about meeting people and expanding your industry contacts. There is a misconception that every time you step out the office door you are expected to walk back with a new project. But this isn’t the case. This is the time you need to spend working on the relationships and building the trust so that when, in time, there is an opportunity to work together then you are the first person that comes to their mind.
When you have been to a few of these events, you will start recognising more and more people making it less daunting. Remember, we have all been there, you are not on your own.
Enjoy yourselves in the company of others. People are naturally attracted to positive, happy people. Go and enjoy it!