Ask James: How do I network?

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Not sure how to network effectively?

In his monthly column, career coach and Chairman of reed.co.uk, James Reed, shares his expert advice to help you tackle your biggest career concerns.

In this month’s column, James gives his top tips on how to network…

The Question:

Dear James,

I’m naturally a chatty person, but when it comes to networking events I completely freeze up. I feel like an imposter. I worry that we’ll start talking about industry specific topics and I won’t know what to say. I’m only at the start of my career so it worries me to strike up a conversation with senior people in highly influential companies. What do I say? Where do I start? Sometimes I’m tempted to pretend I’m more senior than I actually am.

Please help!

Sincerely,

Yusif

 

The Answer:

 Dear Yusif,

Networking events are a great way to meet new people and build up a set of contacts in your industry. We’ve all heard the phrase, ‘It’s not always what you know, but who you know that counts’ and when it comes to job hunting, this often rings true.

However, ‘networking’ can be easier said than done. It’s easy enough to turn up to an event, but when you’re faced with a room full of strangers, even the most outgoing people can retreat into their shell, so it’s important that you make the most out of your time at the event.

If you can, find out who will be attending the event and make a mental note of people you want to speak to. You can even look people up on social media before the event. That way you’ll feel more prepared on the day.

When you send out your CV, rather than sending it into the void it’s best to find out who to address it to, and the same applies with networking.  Knowing who’s who before you turn up will give you the preparedness you need to be confident in your introductions.

It’s also a good idea to read up on the latest industry news before you attend these events so that when people chat about the recent merger of X company and Y, or a brand new technology that’s set to revolutionise the way we work, you’ll be able to have informed conversations, rather than simply nodding along in agreement.

You don’t have to read an anthology, but having a top line understanding will give you the confidence to strike up a conversation.

Also, don’t be afraid of the fact that you’re new to the industry and don’t have as much experience as other people at the event. Everyone had to start somewhere, and people are understanding. Tell them that you’re new to the industry and want to learn more about a particular topic. It’s likely they’ll be able to offer valuable advice.

Finally, be confident in yourself. People are people, regardless of how senior they are or how much knowledge they have. Remind yourself of this fact whenever you feel nervous talking to someone you think may be out of your ‘career league’, so to speak.

Be yourself and be honest. People will like and respect you more for it.

James

What is networking?

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