Networking – My Five Top Tips

Networking is a word which used to terrify me.

The thought of walking into a room of strangers and making polite conversation used to fill me with a mixture of anxiety and horror. But, as time has gone on, I have learned to embrace networking. I now really enjoy networking, so, these are my top tips on how you can embrace networking too.

Some of the most exciting achievements and things I’ve done in my career have happened because of networking. I’ve got chatting to people and as a result we’ve formed collaborations or applied for things and even become friends.

1. Put yourself out there.
Embracing networking opportunities is half the battle. Putting yourself out there and going to things, events, talks and seminars means that you’ll be able to meet more people. I know this is time consuming and particularly difficult during covid times. But keeping an eye out for events and conferences where you might be able to network is key.
Don’t be afraid to go to different events outside of your field of expertise. Surround yourself with people who have different views and opinions. You may not agree with them, but it will certainly enrich your view of the world and it may even make you think differently about your own views.

2. Don’t be afraid to make contact prior
If there’s someone you really want to meet at an event or conference, don’t be afraid to reach out to them beforehand. Depending on the nature of the event there might be lots of people and it might have an action packed schedule. Don’t be afraid to reach out to people before, for example on social media or via email if you want to meet them. The worst that can happen is that they might be busy or unable to meet and if that happens, don’t worry at least you tried. But, you might be able to meet at a coffee break or over lunch. Planning meeting people ahead of time can really pay off and help with schedules and planning.

3. Have a quick elevator pitch ready.
When you meet someone for the first time you’ll likely make polite conversation for the first few minutes or so. A common question might be “What do you do?” This question will come up time and time again so have a think about what you want to tell people about yourself. Have a two minute pitch ready and sell yourself! If you are working on a particularly exciting project, if you have a passion for something or an unusual skill remember to include it. Anything that sets you apart and makes you different will be memorable to the people who you meet. Don’t over practice so that you sound like a robot, but have a think about what you want to include; keep it professional, concise and memorable.

4. Odd groups are easier to get into.
The anxiety I used to feel, when I walked into a room and everyone else seemed to be in conversation apart from me, it was significant. It’s horrible and makes you feel like you are back at school with no friends! There are a few strategies that I’ve learnt in terms of dealing with situations like this, because they happen to all of us. The first is seek out ways to meet people. Drinks stations, snack tables or cloakrooms are excellent places to meet other people who are looking for people to talk to.
My other top tip if you are looking to break into a conversation of other people; keep an eye out for groups with odd numbers. It seems silly, but it really works. Generally conversations revolve around two people, so try and steer clear of two people talking together, interrupting them might appear rude or awkward. Whereas, if there are three people in a group it’s likely going to be easier to pick someone off and strike up a conversation.

5. Don’t put pressure on yourself.
Ultimately, my anxiety over networking resolved once I reframed the way that I thought about networking. Rather than worrying about making a fool of myself, I now see networking as an opportunity; an opportunity to meet new people. Rather than a room full of people, think of networking as a room full of opportunities. The only draw back is that if you don’t feel your networking session has gone very well it can feel a bit frustrating, like an opportunity lost. But try to not put pressure on yourself. Sometimes you won’t realize how important networking is until years later when you get an out of the blue email from a contact you met years ago.

With these top tips, I hope that you can embrace networking as I have done in my career. You may not appreciate it at the time but networking is such a vital and important skill. While I still have a tiny bit of anxiety at the thought of networking, now mainly I feel excitement about all of the exciting opportunities that networking might bring.

Photo by Product School on Unsplash
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