October 16, 2014 3:02 pm

When you network, do you net work?

For many people networking is a daunting, and somewhat misunderstood concept. Often people have the best intentions in wanting to network, and will take the leap to actually attend a networking function yet they then speak largely to those people at the event that they already know, such as their colleagues and acquaintances!

For a great deal of people out there the innate fear of standing alone, in a room of strangers, leaves them frantically surveying the crowd on arrival for a familiar face, then hunting them down like a truffle pig who just picked up the scent of their preferred prize. Or, just as commonly they might go along to the function with their colleagues from work and end up speaking only to them all night – it’s a bit like drinks after work but in a more fancy corporate setting (and they are probably hitting one of their KPIs as they do it!).

I think most people hate networking, I still do to an extent, but it is integral to being a good recruiter, so like a lot of things in recruitment, you need to learn how to do it and do it well. Most bosses think taking you to a networking function and leaving you at the door as they disappear into a sea of unfamiliar faces is called training!

With the festive season coming up, there are a lot of client and work related functions you’ll be invited to, so there is no better time to hone your skills to get the most out of each event, so you net work when you network!

My top tips:

• Go on your own! I personally would prefer to stick a fork in my eye (it’s a saying a good friend of mine says all the time) rather then walk into a room full of strangers on my own – but you have to. It will force you to speak to people. When you can trust yourself not to bunker down in the corner with your work colleagues and consume as many house wines as possible in the time allotted – then you can go with others, but you have to go alone initially! Networking is so key to your success and you must get something out of every function you go to;

• Do some research into the function and attendees that could be there. Sounds strange you would go to a function you don’t know much about, but many times in my career I have been nominated or asked to attend some left field function, or what I thought were quite random events, and I have come away having made life long contacts out of my attendance. A little research will help you feel a confidence in introducing yourself to relevant people, and hold a mildly intelligent conversation;

• When doing your research look at the attendees list and if you know people going, make sure you make contact with them prior. Also tell your colleagues you are going and see if they know any of the attendees, they might be able to facilitate an introduction even if they aren’t personally going with you – before you know it, you’ll know half of the room!;

• Take business cards, I know that sounds stupid (as if you wouldn’t!) but I have been to many functions where colleagues have forgotten their business cards and that just doesn’t leave a professional impression;

• It might sound a bit silly or corny, but set yourself a challenge and make it a bit of a game! For instance whether you are there alone or with a colleague, having a task such as getting 5 business cards from people that you have never spoken to before, or where one of you has to speak to everyone in the room that is wearing something orange, and your colleague those wearing green. You will work your way around that room in no time, and have a bit of fun along the way;

• Don’t wait to be approached, approach people that are alone too. The obligatory networking function name badge (you know the one you usually forget to remove as you leave) is a perfect starting point. Try open questions such as “Hi Sue, what’s your role at Oracle?” or “Hi Sue, what’s your interest in the topic tonight?”, so it starts a conversation – rather than “Hi Sue, I see you work at Oracle” to which Sue (who is just as nervous as you trying to net work remember!) answers “Yes” and then the conversation stops;

• When speaking to Sue, focus on Sue. Don’t behave like you have been separated from your herd and anxiously look over her shoulder for familiar faces – if you don’t find Sue engaging or vice versa, heaven forbid, be polite and just say “Sue, it was lovely to meet you, I’m just going to get myself another drink” or some other equally polite excuse;

• Which leads me to the two drink rule. Try and pace yourself to just two drinks for the night – anyone that knows me, knows that would be very hard for me but it is important. I’ll of course throw a colleague under the bus instead of me, and try to convince you that I’ve never had too much to drink at a networking function… but that might not be 100% true! Let’s just say that drinking too much and running around a filled room full of clients with your blouse up over your head will make an impression but possibly not net you work; and finally

• If you do meet people you are genuinely interested in developing a business relationship with, send them an email the next day to say just that and ask them to connect with you if appropriate.

Do you have any tips on networking – we’d love you to share them with us. And remember please Like us on Facebook and Follow Us on LinkedIn so we can keep communicating and sharing experiences.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *