How to get better at networking
Published: 22 Aug 2016
One Mumsnetter describes networking as "like a memory test and a job interview combined with a wedding where you don't know any of the other guests". But there are ways you can improve at it - and even have fun while you're doing it. Find out how best to work the room...
1. If you're going to a networking event, be among the first to arrive
"One of the best pieces of advice I could give would be to get there early. It's tempting to sneak in late, but by then everybody else will be chatting in groups and you'll have to butt in. If you're early, people will be on their own - and if you're the first, even though it feels awkward, the next people in will come and speak to you..."
2. Be inquisitive
"Ask lots of questions. Memorise a few ice-breakers particular to your industry if it helps."
"If you don't know what to say to someone, ask what they do. Another good icebreaker is asking if they've attended one of the events before."
3. Have an end-goal
"A previous manager advised me to go to networking events with a single aim - eg, speak with someone else in my profession, or chat to someone I've noted on the attendee list, or give my card to a contact. I feel I've spent my time wisely if I achieve my original ambition."
4. Seize ANY opportunity
"Sometimes, chatting to someone in the toilets or the lunch queue at an event can be more rewarding than meeting someone formally, so I try to make the most of those opportunities."
5. Be altruistic
"Years ago I was given some brilliant advice about networking by an ex-boss, who said: go into a room and find three people you can help professionally. That way, you don't feel shy chatting and asking questions, as the question in the back of your mind is 'what can I do for you', not 'what can you do for me?'. You come across as a positive person and people remember you because you helped them. They'll also be predisposed to help you in the future."
6. Have an exit strategy
"Never have your plate more than half-full. That way, you can use the excuse of getting more food if the conversation dies."
Of course, you don't always have to network in person...
7. Get on the blower
"A phone call is often more fruitful than a face-to-face encounter. Call up to ask someone's advice - for example 'X says you're the expert/go-to person on this subject, and I hope you don't mind if I pick your brains.' Most people will be flattered by this."
8. Engage with people online
"I've found Twitter to be fantastic for networking; I'm much more interesting on there than I am in real life! I've found it a great way to pick up ideas and contacts and have made lots of connections via industry Twitter chats."
9. And finally: know that it does get easier
"I try to make myself go to at least one networking thing each week and I am getting a bit better with practice."