I REMEMBER the first time I went to a networking event; it was a few years ago and at the time I had just made the decision that I was going to enter the big bad world of self-employment and set up as a Freelance CV consultant, writer and editor.
Before then I had heard of this thing called ‘networking’ but I just dismissed it as something for pretentious people and extroverts – neither of which I considered myself – and so stayed as far away as I possibly could. This time however there was a carrot at the end of the stick so I just had to attend.
It was very daunting walking into a room full of seemingly confident strangers who met with no purpose other than to just “network” – I mean, what do you actually talk about in these conversations? What if you run out of things to say? What if no one comes to talk to you? What if the person you’re talking to won’t let you get a word in edgeways…? All the ‘what if’ anxieties raced through my mind but with my agenda firmly in mind I made the decision to ‘fight’ over the ‘flee’ response.
By the end of the evening I had exchanged business cards with several people and a week later I was sitting in the office of one of the directors I had met, shaking hands to seal the deal following an hour-long informal interview for an editor role at his magazine – this was my first paid job as my own boss.
Over the years I have since learnt the value of networking and I now try to go to at least two events a month. Networking isn’t just for business people however – the job market has changed significantly over the past few years which means that if you are looking for a job, you now need to be a lot more creative on how you go about it and networking offers you the opportunity to do just that. By networking – and I don’t just mean going to recruitment events, all jobseekers do that – you can really isolate the competition and place yourself ahead of the game. You can attend business events, seminars, workshops, and even social events that have a more formal structure (like meetups) to widen your chances of landing your next job.
3 top tips to succeed at job networking
- Prepare your ‘elevator pitch’ in advance – this is essentially the first two or three sentences you say when you meet someone for the first time. You should be able to sum up who you are, what you do and what you would like to do in no more than 30 seconds. So for example, “My name is Jane and I currently work in housing as a Sales Officer but I would really like to move on to a more senior role in housing management.” Sharing this information with the right person could get you your next job.
- Always bring business cards – you don’t have to spend a lot of money on these as you will only be using them to give out your contact details for job search purposes. Some shopping centres have card printing machines which will give you a small quantity of about 30 cards for under £5, or alternatively you can make and print your own on good quality card paper!
- Always follow up your contacts immediately – take a business card from everyone you speak to and always follow up as close to the event as possible with a “lovely to meet you, let’s stay in touch” email – even if they have no direct link to your job search right now. If you make a habit of expanding your network and being nice to people you meet along the way, you never know when it might come in useful for your next step up the career ladder.
Where to look for events
In addition to sourcing information from your contacts on social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, you can also find event information in these places:
- City Business library - free seminars and workshops on a host of subjects including job related topics such as writing CVs and preparing for interviews: http://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/cbl
- Business Link - free business startup events so while you’re looking for your next job you can at least start thinking about whether working for yourself might be a feasible option: http://www.bllondon.com/isitforme/Events/PreStartUpEvents.aspx
- Meetup – large network of local groups who meetup about all sorts of things; find one you’re interested in, join and go along to the meetings: http://www.meetup.com
- Libraries - these are great for picking up leaflets, brochures and other information about things happening in your local area. Visit your borough website for more details.
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