The art of networking

The art of networking

Published on 19th March 2014

Networking is something not all of us feel entirely comfortable with.

The concept of standing in a room with a bunch of people that you don’t know and that you have to introduce yourself to is enough to scare even the most confident among us. But networking should be viewed as an opportunity; a chance to build sustainable long-term relationships with many career enhancing benefits.  

I've been recruiting within Recovery and Restructuring for over three years and have worked on assignments with a range of international and SME clients. One of the biggest challenges currently facing many of these organisations is how best to organically develop the next generation of work winners and fee generators. 

This is an issue that is not just limited to the Insolvency industry but a common theme among many professions in both the public and private sector. In recruitment, we see it all the time and it is often the reason why many of our clients instruct us to help them recruit staff with sufficient networking skills to operate effectively at the more senior levels. 

A solution to this problem would be for employers to actively encourage their staff to spend time away from the office in order to network with the contacts that will one day be the clients of the future. Sounds good in principle but many businesses simply cannot afford to give their employees the time to develop these external relationships and so the onus has to fall upon you to find the time outside of core working hours. 

This may mean that you might have to cancel the odd gym session or catch-up on 4OD and iPlayer at the weekends but networking will certainly enhance your promotional aspirations and will set you up with skills that shall set you apart from others in your peer group. 

The art of networking can take many forms but face to face interaction will always generate better results and so here are some important things to remember when attending networking events: 

Remember the basics

It sounds obvious but do remember to take plenty of business cards and try to look engaged. There is nothing worse than talking to someone at a networking event that looks totally disinterested and so it is important to be approachable. It is also important to check who will be attending before the event starts so that you can make your introductions specific and relevant. 

Set expectations

Fundamentally, one of the biggest reasons why so many people stop networking after their first attempt is that they come away feeling disappointed and despondent at having not achieved instant results. Set yourself specific goals with each contact such as; obtaining a business card, establishing common ground or getting introduced to a new person – these are all good targets to have in mind when networking as these initial steps may well lead to wins further down the line.  

Confidence is King

The concept of networking can be a rather daunting proposition for those not used to the style and etiquette involved. Attending events full of people seeking to network will take you completely out of your comfort zone but the more events you attend, the greater your confidence will be. Try to take comfort from the fact that most people will be in the same position as you and that you can come away from an event with a new point of contact that could have a major positive impact on your career.  

Give to gain

Understanding the needs of your contact and how they like to operate is an important aspect to you achieving a successful win-win relationship and so remember to network with the intention of assisting others before yourself. The more you can help someone the more likely it is that they will return the favour. 

Focus on the long-term

Building relationships is easy, maintaining them is the difficult part, so when attending networking events, remember to think about the long-term and not just short-term wins. This shift in mind-set will help you to engineer a much stronger relationship. 

Always follow-up

There is simply no point attending a networking event if you don’t follow up with the people that you have met. The reason people give out business cards is so that you can contact them and so the next day ensure that you add them as a connection on LinkedIn and that you drop them an email with the view to arranging a time to speak or meet with them again. Writing where you met each contact on the back of their business card will also help you to keep track and to make your follow-up email a lot more personal. 

Whether you are seeking to build a network online or to develop contacts at an event, the importance of networking cannot be overlooked and so if you are vying for that promotion and have aspirations of becoming a Director or a Partner then the earlier you start refining and developing your networking skills the greater the long-term rewards will be.