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How to network your way to a better job

Kate Allen, Managing Director, Allen Associates

The mere mention of networking is enough to give some people heart palpitations. Walking into a room packed full of strangers and introducing ourselves isn’t usually high on our priority lists.

Yet networking can do wonders for upwards career mobility and building your personal brand. The old saying ‘it’s who you know, not what you know’ might be truer than you think.

Networking doesn’t need to be terrifying though, even for introverts. There are plenty of ways to brush up your networking skills. So, get ready to prise yourself away from the wall at your next event.

Beat the nerves

Everyone gets nervous – especially when they’re faced with a sea of faces they don’t recognise. But the good news is there are things you can do about it.

Practising breathing exercises in the car or walking on the way to the venue might sound silly, but it can make quite a substantial difference. We tend to take shallow breaths when we’re nervous, which only leads to more anxiety. A few long, deep breaths should help you to focus and feel calmer.

It might sound counter-intuitive, but arriving early can help you to see off those sweaty palms. It will give you a chance to engage one-on-one with a few fellow networkers before the crowd’s flock in. You’ve got the opportunity to make an impression on someone before they become bogged down with business cards, and the initial nerves will be long-gone by the time you move on to the next conversation.

Hook, line and sinker

There are ways to ease into conversation with someone new without resorting to awful clichés. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with a smile, your name and a confident handshake. People can often get het up about coming up with something clever to say to break the ice, when often the easiest way to meet someone is a simple introduction.

If you want a couple more options in your ice breaking repertoire, you could try offering a compliment. A sincere compliment – not an inappropriate one – can go a long way. Something as trivial as “I like your dress, where’s it from?” will lead to an introduction and a conversation. Another trick is to ask for someone’s opinion on something – perhaps the presentation or even the food. Most people love being asked for their opinion.

Go goal-setting mad

Having a plan can add clarity to your networking experience. By setting yourself manageable goals of making say, three or four meaningful connections, you will avoid the common pitfall of frantically collecting business cards from anyone who will talk to you. It also allows you to ease yourself in to the networking world. Once you’ve got a couple of conversations under your belt, you’ll find that it gets a lot easier to put yourself out there.

Take it online

Social media platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter can be a really useful tool. Use it to tell your existing network how excited you are to start networking and let them know when and where they can meet you. You never know, someone who’s a third connection on LinkedIn might recognise you and kick-start a meaningful conversation.

Many organisers release a list of attendees prior to an event. You can use social media to check-out if you have anything in common with anybody and use your new-found intelligence as a conversation starter.

Many people now use social media as an alternative to business cards. Networking follow-up is an important step to maintain and maximise on meaningful connections.

Demand from Employers throughout Oxfordshire is at a record high, with a quarter of all businesses in the area planning to take on more people over the coming months. If you are considering your next career move, get in touch with us and we can help you to find the role that is right for you.

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