How to make networking work for you

Real-life networking


© Twitter - Real-life networking
© Twitter
Networking in real life is scary. Walking into a room full of people you don't know no matter how confident you are, is just plain terrifying. They're all horrible and there to judge you, right? Of course not. They're probably just as nervous, but they've got a drink in their hand.

Here are some ways to make networking in real life a bit easier:

Work out what you want from the event
Do you want to find out about work opportunities? Meet more like-minded people? Not every single networking event will be for you. Some will be too stuffy, some too informal. Others might just be full of people at a different stage in their careers – if you've got a few years under your belt and you're after a promotion but everyone around you is entry level, go to another event and see what happens there. Try them on, see which one fits.

Take someone with you
If you take someone with you, it's less overwhelming. It's best not to take your favorite work colleague or best friend. You'll spend all night talking to them and then, what's the point? Take someone you'll want to catch up with later on in the evening, but not someone you'll feel obliged to talk to all night.

It's not a race
So you only talk to one person? It doesn't matter how many people you talk to, or if you race around the room chatting to everyone. Often, the meetings you don't expect to bring anything, tend to be the ones that do. Relax. Do what you want.

You'll probably get hit on
Women tend to get hit on at networking events. Of course, if you're not interested, then you're not interested. But as most networking events are in bars, after a few glasses of wine, the lines between business and personal gain will blur. You know your own boundaries, just don't be too easily offended. Politely slink away if you don't want to talk, there's always someone else to chat to.

It's not just about business
Sometimes, networking can be just about having fun. You talk about work, but it's not in a boardroom. It's lighter, it's new and it's more exciting.  It can make you excited about your job again. If you go to an event and you're just thinking about your business and what's in it for you, you'll find that people avoid you. Be friendly and chat. They're people remember, not stepping stones for your promotion.

Networking isn't just about you. It's about meeting other people and letting them talk. There are so many people out there that are interesting and intelligent and they want to know you if you let them. But if all you're interested in doing is thrusting your business card at them, you're missing out. And your business card will end up in the bin.

If you have met some nice people, drop them a line. Nothing major, send them an email telling them you enjoyed meeting them or start following them on Twitter (see how it works now?) and then chat as and when you feel like it. Networking doesn't cement relationships, it just makes them happen. What you do after that is up to you.

Sian Meades


Sian Meades
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