With National Networking Week in full swing from Monday 4 to Friday 8 August, you may well find yourself attending one of the many networking functions being held around the country next week.
If that’s the case, now is a better time than any to sharpen your networking skills and get into the mindset of a master networker. It’s your time to shine on the professional stage!
To help you prepare, here are five tips the 2013 National Networking Week Ambassador, Steven D’Souza, shared with AIM audiences during his tour last year:
1. Don’t fall into the trap of confusing networking with manipulation.
Unfortunately, some people associate networking with negative connotations, distorting their understanding of the activity. Networking is about connecting and forming genuine relationships with people, and helping each other get ahead. Ensure you go into it with a positive perspective.
2. Gain a clearer view of your current network depth by drawing a map.
The easiest way to form your own networking strategy is to literally put it on paper. Draw a map of your current networks and connect lines between yourself and all your contacts – look for the gaps. Find out what relationships you’re lacking in your social sphere and think about the different ways you could develop them.
3. Think strategically about networking – are you mixing with the same people every time?
Do all your contacts know each other? It’s important to build diverse networks so that you can widen your professional reach as far as possible. It’s also important to place as much importance on forming weak ties as you do on forming strong ties.
Steven describes ‘weak ties’ as contacts you are not connected to directly, but through other people. Meanwhile ‘strong ties’ are those you are connected to directly.
Research suggests that weak ties actually offer greater job opportunities, as strong ties usually know the same people as you and can’t necessarily widen your reach, but weak ties can offer resources outside of your own network.
4. When it comes to creating connections, it should always be quality over quantity.
It’s better to have five strong relationships than 10 empty connections. So instead of playing the ‘hand out as many business cards as possible’ game, try to focus more on forging strong, long-lasting connections. One genuine connection will offer far more in the long term than numerous empty exchanges, so it’s best to invest your time and energy into these relationships.
5. Think carefully about how you appear upon first impression.
Practice maintaining eye contact, smiling warmly and (if appropriate) offering a handshake that demonstrates solidarity. It’s also a good idea to pay attention to potential dress codes, make an effort not to talk too fast and try to maintain a confident posture – it may well draw people to you at events.
If you’d like more networking tips to give you an edge throughout National Networking Week, you can find more useful information on this topic in Steven’s book Brilliant Networking: What the Best Networkers Know, Say & Do.
Ready to put your new skills into action?
Join AIM for National Networking Week – click here to find out if there is a local networking event on in your area between Monday 4 to Friday 8 August.