We’ve all been there, in a crowded room of other professionals, probably feeling self-conscious, nervous or just bored. Maybe you have a glass of wine in your hand, maybe a coffee. It could be an internal or external event. Either way, networking is awkward. Plain and simple.
At these events you’ll see two different people:
- The people who are trying to hand their business card (or these days LinkedIn account) to as many people as possible, measuring their success by the extra connection requests they receive.
- The people making genuine conversation with a few new people and developing human connection
and only one of them is doing it right.
What is Networking?
Oxford Dictionary defines Networking as “the action or process of interacting with others to exchange information and develop professional or social contacts”. It’s engaging with peers or superiors to seek mutual benefit. Often the benefit isn’t immediate, you’re not necessarily gaining an opportunity from a 10-minute chat however having that person in your network and nurturing the relationship may result in an opportunity in the future.
The benefits of Networking
Cultivating a network often seems like a vapid mission part of performing professionalism, and it can be if you’re not in it for the right reasons. But it won’t seem trivial for long when you understand the benefits of creating a genuine and strong professional network.
The benefits we’re most excited about:
- Understanding the industry external to your company on a deeper level – e.g. corporate culture, salary standards, best practices and movements
- Finding friends that instantly understand you on a professional level, relating to your work struggles and joys.
- Creating more open windows for opportunities
- Finding a mentor who truly wants to share wisdom and guidance
- Finding a mentee who genuinely values your experience and is eager to learn
- Creating a sounding board for tough conversations and exciting ideas
- Strengthen your brand by word of mouth, increase eyes on LinkedIn and meet new people
And that’s only the beginning.
Getting started with networking.
Start small. Begin expanding your LinkedIn network but don’t just add connections and forget about them. Find people who offer mutual professional value and send a connection request WITH A NOTE! Very important!! It allows you to stand out and shows you’re genuine about connecting and want to build a professional relationship. Stuck on what to write? We’ve got you.
Connection message templates
To keep it professional:
I came across your profile and was interested in your experience in [using Chat GPT to inform UGC].
I’d love to add you to my professional network so we can support each other.
Or if you’re more of the fun type:
Loved your post on [client calls from different time zones], totally relate to that [struggle].
Replace everything in brackets with applicable content and press send.
When you’re ready for the next step, invite a coffee connection. Get some practice in nurturing connections face-to-face, and if the thought is a bit overwhelming, do it over wine instead.
When you’ve become comfortable with reaching out and meeting up with connections, you’re ready for a networking event.
Just like making new friends or asking someone out on a date, there are a lot of nerves that can come with networking events. The one thing you need to know is that they’re likely nervous too. Everyone feels awkward or lost at networking events, and often it’s a relief when someone comes up to them and starts the conversation. Be that person, somebody has to. Everyone is there for the same reason and is keen to meet new people, so make the first step to ensure you stand out from the crowd.
The Right way to network
Networking is about quality over quantity, building genuine and long-lasting connections with professionals in your industry. Continuing to nurture these relationships and provide value to your network is what provides opportunities. Creating a culture of mutual respect and admiration allows you to understand the strengths of your network members – that way when someone asks you if you know someone in Tech who would want to talk at an upcoming panel, or jump into a new role or mentor a junior, you have them in mind, and they also have you.