Networking, what a horrible word it is.  Perhaps a more apt way of describing it is socialising professionally so that you raise your own personal profile and gain valuable professional contacts. It’s not an easy thing to do and after several recent meetings discussing this recently I thought I’d do a bit of a blog on it. 

It’s fair to say that my job is all about networking, I meet people for a living and talk about lots of intangible things such as the ‘markets’ and trends we’re seeing within it.  I hope I’m reasonably good at my job though I fully expect that if ever anyone reads this I could have several naysayers!  With this in mind I thought I might give a few tips as to how to do this without seeming over eager or desperate.  The worst thing is to be the type of chap who is at every industry event and hands out business cards like confetti.  

Ideally you want to be in contact with people who are relevant to you, in other words the people of the right level who ultimately make decisions which could affect you in some way.  Be it your next job, your next non-executive position, your next client or your next sales target.  The problem with this is of course that these people are in demand, so how do you get to them without sounding like everyone else who’s trying to get to them?  In short, how do you stand out?

Without a doubt the best way to meet people and to network is by referrals.  If someone gives you a personal recommendation that is gold dust, people are far more willing to chat with someone if they’ve been referred to them by a friend or trusted colleague.  So the question becomes how do you get referrals?  Well that’s a little tougher but I believe there are two main areas to concentrate on, one is being damn good at what you do, whatever that is and do it for a long time, it builds word of mouth.  The second is to be an open networker yourself, by this I mean be generous with your own contacts.  Introduce people you know in similar fields, if for instance you know a pensions consultant very well and an in house head of pensions, why don’t you introduce them? It doesn’t cost you anything except a couple of minutes but it builds your credibility, of course assuming both your connections are good!  Ultimately both these people will be that little more willing to do you a favour and introduce you to someone they know when the time comes.  I’m a firm believer in what goes around comes around and if you share your time with others, help them with no thought of reward for doing so, ultimately others will come back and do the same for you.  

The more we all learn this skill and do it better, the more generous we are with our connections, then the more business will be transacted, new roles found and friendships formed.  It’s a valuable skill and one that benefits us all ultimately.  

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