With upcoming career expos such as the ‘Reinvent You Career Expo’ on Saturday 22 & 23 March in Brisbane, there is no better time to brush up on your networking skills. But, what is networking?
Networking is a highly undervalued and underestimated career activity that can assist many professionals, not just in their direct job search success but also in their long term career success. It should also be harnessed as an ongoing career succession/progression tool.
Networking is not just some buzz word business professionals like to throw around. Be assured, there are some good techniques and bad techniques when it comes to networking. There are many tips and must-dos when it comes to networking; we have summarised the key tips from our research.
- Have a goal? What is your purpose for attending any event, be it an expo, workshop, seminar? You may have more than one goal. For example, you may wish to learn more about a specific topic, and gain more, valuable contacts. Every event has networking opportunities. Leverage the power of networking and build your contacts, make a valued connection, share information etc.
- Give and take – Do not go to an event of any kind, hoping to ask for favours or have a selection of ‘can you help me’ conversation starters. Yes, one of your goals may be to increase your chances of landing a job or impress an employer or get some information. However, flat out asking for a job or ‘will you hire me?’ can sometimes come across as desperate and unprofessional. After all, communication and interpersonal skills are some of the key soft skills you can possess in any business role. Being a diplomatic and influential communicator is a coveted skill by employers. Now is the time to show it! Invest in the person you are speaking with. Practice active listening and show genuine interest in what the person is saying. Try to offer a solution or advice where you can. We guarantee, by attempting to ‘give’ to your current audience, you will make a valued connection which will help you reap benefits of your own.
- Quality vs Quantity – If your only purpose at networking events is to hand out your 500 pack of business cards then you may as well not attend. As above, making valued connections should be one of your goals, if not your only goal. Focus on quality conversations vs quantity. The key is to create meaningful and lasting impressions and interactions and you can only do this by offering something in the interaction. This doesn’t mean you need to be an expert on every possible topic discussed. Offering something could be as simple as your active ear and a genuine interest.
- Research – Attending an expo is a perfect opportunity to get up close and personal with potential employers. Check the exhibitor list, locate the key players you wish to speak with and prepare some key conversation points to really make an impact. Getting the chance to talk with a desired employer or keynote speaker at an expo can be a rare and fleeting moment. Do not, I repeat, do not waste time asking questions like, “So what is it that you do?” You had plenty of time to research the company prior to attending. Instead, research some interesting facts, new developments, recent media or press releases and show that you have taken the time to bring to the table some meaty discussion points. One other tip: be succinct and to the point. Again, you may only have but mere minutes to make an impression. If you are going to ask a question or state your interest in something, make it punchy and to the point.
- Make the most of what is on offer – Take advantage of the free seminars and workshops. Take note of the keynote speakers and pay attention to what they have to say. Why? Because this will be a great opportunity for you to send an email after the event to thank them for their time or the valuable information they imparted, allowing you to build another contact from effective networking.
- Update your social profiles – What do you think the number one activity is after someone attends a networking event? That’s right, they will check out other people’s profiles. The most common profile would be LinkedIn. Ensure your profile is up to date and complete. Having an incomplete profile can send red flags to potential employers and new contacts. Having a well rounded ‘career profile’ signals that you take your professional brand seriously and that you are an active mover and shaker in the business world. And don’t forget your other social profiles such as facebook, twitter, google+, youtube etc. Whether we agree or not, ALL social platforms will form part of your online brand. When posting anything to any online profile, we always advise people to ask themselves, “Would I be happy for my employer to see this?”. If the answer is no, then don’t post it.
Networking events are a great opportunity to learn about changes and upcoming trends, make new connections and really get your brand out in the industry. Harness the power of networking and diarise at least one networking event each quarter at the very least to keep yourself fresh and active in the networking game. Visit sites such as Meet Up, an online networking site that brings together like-minded individuals on a whole range of interests, and join some local clubs to get notified of upcoming events.