A strong contacts book is a great way to open yourself up to new career opportunities – and it may just help you get to the top in the long run. If you’re hoping to land a higher-level role or break into a new industry, it might be time to strengthen your networking skills and see what career doors open for you.
1. Do your research
Get into the habit of reading trade publications, websites and blogs to stay abreast of industry news. Also, don’t underestimate the value of a little face-time with your team-mates and manager. Taking the time to catch up with those in the business can often be the best way to find out about job openings or upcoming projects.
2. Start with your peers
Successful networking doesn’t always mean you have to secure a lunch date with the CEO of the dotcom giant you want to work for. Work on building connections with those who are in a similar position to you. This is just as crucial as it allows you to be kept in the loop of potential opportunities (especially when co-workers leave to work for other companies) and trustworthy peers are great for giving advice as they’re often dealing with similar issues.
3. The five minute rule
Everyone has five minutes to spare, right? If you want to approach a major leader in your field, global networking specialist Robyn Henderson says, “Ask to make an appointment for five minutes of their time.” If you are granted an audience, have your questions ready and stick to the time you’re allocated.
4. Don’t underestimate informal networking
You never know how someone you meet socially could impact your career later on. Aussie journalist and author, Rachel Hills knows this all too well. After organising a dinner party for a friend’s friend visiting Sydney, Hills (through this connection) met the person who would eventually introduce her to the agent that secured her book deal. “And it was all because I threw a party for someone I didn’t know,” Hills says.
5. Follow up
If you’ve met a great contact in person, be sure to get their details or exchange business cards. This way, you can send them a thank you email or phone them a week or two afterwards (if appropriate). When following up make sure to remind them where you met and any memorable topics you may have discussed. If you both bonded over a love of golf, don’t be shy to remind them of this! Stay in touch by sharing any relevant information such as upcoming conferences, training events or industry news, and occasionally reaching out for an interesting discussion or brainstorm about areas they specialise in.
6. Set yourself a monthly challenge
Set yourself a goal of meeting one new person a month; whether you reach out on social media or email, strike up a conversation in the lunchroom, or approach someone at an industry event. It’s a great way to train yourself to network plus you may just end up with 12 connections at the end of the year that you wouldn’t have had otherwise.
If you’re the shy and reserved type, you’ll know all too well that the ‘one size fits all’ approach of most networking tips can leave you feeling more daunted than self-assured. However meeting and engaging new people isn’t just an extrovert’s game. Check out our introvert's guide to networking for some confidence-boosting tips.