Why networking is important and four ways to get it right

Know you need to build your network but feel daunted by the idea? Find out why networking is important and four ways to get it right.

The term ‘networking’ often strikes a note of fear into people. However, all it really is is building relationships. Attending events is a great place to meet people although that may or may not be the main objective.

Take a conference for example, you may go to learn something or to share a specific speaker but it’s also a great opportunity to meet people and start to build valuable professional relationships.

There are many reasons to network – people often think it is just about finding new clients and it might be, particularly if you run your own business or you have or, one day will have responsibility for business development in a larger company or firm.

Other reasons include building your professional profile, learning about your market including about competitor activity, looking for suppliers or others to partner with and where relevant, hear about new roles.

The issue is that you can’t build a network when you need one, so it is better to start before it is needed. A network can benefit most people at many points in their professional life but unless you make a conscious effort to make time for it, it won’t happen; more seemingly important and immediate activities and tasks will get prioritised instead.

Four ways to get networking right

So now we know why networks are so important. But how can you build yours? Here are four tips for getting started with networking and keeping it going.

1) Build a strategy and plan

  • Consider who you need to know and where you may find them.
  • Find out about events – colleagues/business contacts can often help.
  • Commit to a certain number of events a month and stick to it.
  • Review what you’ve been doing every quarter to see if you need to make any changes.

2) Consider how to be interested and interesting

  • Have in mind that if you can help others that can be very beneficial to building relationships.
  • Listening needs to be a key focus so that people feel you are engaged and they feel valued.
  • Think about how you would describe how you help clients i.e.  what you do in your role. “I am a JOBTITLE” is rarely very compelling. You want to describe what you do in a way that doesn’t intimidate people, interests them and provokes them to want to ask more.

3) Engage with others positively at events

  • Consider carefully how you join groups.
  • Never start a conversation with “What do you do?” Ideally have some ‘human’ conversation first before getting them to talk about their professional life first.
  • Avoid leaving an individual on their own to get a drink/go to the bathroom/leave the event. Always try to join others together, introduce them to someone or suggest you both go to the drinks table/bar together where perhaps you’ll meet others.

4) Follow-up afterwards, no action means attending was a waste of time

  • As a minimum, connect with those you met on LinkedIn.
  • Complete any other actions you promised e.g. connecting people to others, sending on information, arranging a follow-up meeting.
  • Consider who you want to stay in touch with ongoing and set a diary reminder or manage this using a spreadsheet or CRM system.

Networking is just the start of building professional relationships. Relationships need ongoing work to nurture them and reap the benefits. 

Networking is an ongoing commitment, and it is valuable to reconnect with people you already know, as well as meeting new people. What step can you take today to make networking an ongoing part of your working life?

Joanna Gaudoin helps bright, knowledgeable people with great technical skills and experience improve their non-technical skills so they can progress their careers and boost their company’s performance. She runs Inside Out Image.

Joanna publishes a newsletter Impact for Success every six weeks, full of articles and guidance, you can request it here.