The Do’s & Don’ts of Networking
Ever come across someone that knows just the thing to say in any given situation, instantly captivating and engaging their audience? They’ve clearly been blessed with apt social graces or have a well polished routine! This is definitely not the case for the majority of us, and we at Paddl understand. It’s pleasing to know that networking is a skill that can easily be developed, something we love to put into practise at our Paddl Games Events.
So What is Networking?
Networking can be considered a marketing tool; it is the art of social interaction with others to develop your professional journey. It’s an exchange of information and is one of the best job search tools out there. Spending time developing soft skills like networking increases your workplace value and enhances your personal brand. It’s truly an invaluable skill that is continually developed over time - it’s just as important as all the other top skills you want to learn for 2019!
What are the Benefits?
Networking allows you to open doors and create opportunity - a chance to have conversations with potential recruiters, influencers, peers or even future clients. Meeting and talking to the right people can earn you free advice, word-of-mouth referrals and broaden your network, no matter what your career stage. If done correctly, it can gain you trust and credibility - key characteristics if you’re starting a new career journey. To help you get started, here’s a list of our some of our favourite ways to network:
Prepare questions - anticipate questions you may be asked, and who you might meet. Remember why you’re there - being prepared with potential questions and answers is never a bad thing.
Put your best foot forward - don’t shy away from interaction, you’re there to meet people. Be prepared to say hello, chances are people are just as nervous as you are.
Have an “Elevator Pitch” - practice introducing yourself in a quick, concise and accurate manner. The key here is to engage your audience early. Be honest, and own what makes you great!
Listen and Learn - actively listen to others’ experience and ask follow up questions. “When did you start working at Paddl?” or “Was it difficult finding a mentor?” This makes the speaker feel valued and understood, and they are more likely to actively listen when it comes time for you to speak.
Quid-pro-quo - offer suggestions, advice or services without expecting anything in the immediate return - you never know when good karma will come your way.
Be comfortable with your value - we said it before, own what makes you great!
Patience is a virtue - networking is about developing strong, lasting relationships, even if you don’t speak to your network on a regular basis. Good things come to those who wait!
Remember, these DOs keep it professional - aim to master them all. If you’re attending as a student, consider your presentation and behaviour. You represent not only the institution where you studied, but yourself as well! Think about how you would like to be seen in the workplace, and aim to become that person. Do you want to be seen as an active listener? Or someone who always offers a helping hand? Visualise how you would like to be seen and you’ll start to feel the part. The following DON’TS are some of the things you want to avoid:
Don’t speak to just one person - The more the better! Chances are everyone is looking to meet multiple people, so go with the flow and sell your brand.
Don’t be too direct - allow people to explain who they are and why they are there. Listen, and when the time comes ask questions.
Don’t make it all about you - Avoid overzealous self-promotion, because this doesn’t build positive relationships. You’ll get more from the experience when you listen.
Don’t drink too much - at some meetups there will be food and alcohol, but avoid getting intoxicated. It will quickly come across as unprofessional and sloppy.
Don’t expect a job - everyone is there to build relationships. Approach networking with this as your mindset and think of the long game.
Don’t forget to say thank you - people are taking time out of their busy schedules to be at these events and manners go a long way. Be polite and thank everyone for their time.
Don’t forget to follow up - whether later that day or through LinkedIn during the week, reach out to who you met by reminding them about key takeaways from your conversation in your follow-up message. Something along the lines of “hearing about your latest project was fascinating - I’d love to stay up to date on your career” or “thanks for introducing me to Paddl, I look forward to seeing you at the next event” is a concise, professional way to thank and stay in touch with someone you’ve just met.
Like we said earlier, great networking is not a god-given quality. Even though some people start out naturally gifted, it is a soft skill that needs to be continually developed. Practise, practise and more practise! Some of our favourite events to network at are our Paddl Games experiences - one-day, hackathon-style events where students and graduates work alongside businesses to develop innovative outcomes.
We’ve got a big year planned, so update your Paddl profile today and be the first to know when these events are happening next! Make sure you also follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and Twitter to stay up to date!