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Networking 101: everything you need to know

by Communications Assistant Sadie Cole

In all honesty, networking in a professional setting is not something that I have found to be particularly easy.

Being relatively new to my field, I often found myself rehearsing the belief that I had nothing of significance to contribute to a conversation. Because of this, it’s safe to say that I had not made the most out of the few networking sessions I attended before the coronavirus pandemic drove us all into the confines of our homes.

In light of this, lockdown provided the perfect opportunity, not to network per se, but to scrub up on networking tips and tricks, equipping myself to be more confident when networking events begin to take place again. For anybody else out there who has, like myself, not quite reached their colleagues’ status of becoming networking queens these top tips might just help you out.

  1. Plan and prepare: Even if you don’t use any of the information, researching the event you’ll be attending is a must, and is one of the easiest ways to build confidence and present yourself as knowledgeable from the moment you walk into the room. Similarly, you should attend the event with some sort of aim in mind. Ask yourself, who is it that you want to speak to? What do you want to achieve? Having a baseline knowledge of the event and your goals is a must, and is one of the simplest yet most effective ways to equip you before you attend.
  2. Find a friendly face: This will become easier with the more events you attend, but finding a familiar face in the crowd is a perfect way to strike up a conversation and be introduced to new people. This will make the prospect of initiating a conversation feel a lot less daunting.
  3. Ask open-ended questions: It’s not a secret that people love to talk about themselves. Luckily, asking open-ended questions will provide you with a length of time which enables you to figure out where to take the conversation next, whilst showing the person you’re speaking with that you hold a genuine interest in what they are discussing.
  4. Know your strengths and skills when you walk into the room: Be realistic with yourself. What you’re not is a complete failure who has no useful skills and nothing to offer anybody. You wouldn’t be in the room if you were! What you are is a highly skilled individual with a unique skillset, and you will undoubtedly have a great deal to offer. If you’re not sure what it is you bring to the table, speak to fellow colleagues and your boss to get a feel for how others perceive your skills.
  5. Smile! If you can’t find a friendly face in the room, be the friendly face. Smiling, using open body language and utilising hand gestures is a guaranteed way to present yourself as approachable