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Further your career with strategic networking

Jan 22, 2018
Orla Brosnan, CEO of the Etiquette School of Ireland, says strategic networking, rather than a 'work the room' approach, is the best way to build relationships and can aid your career development.

The term ‘networking’ often conjures up images of people standing in a room engaging in stilted conversations and looking uncomfortable. It’s something that is seen by many as a chore with no perceived benefits.

However, networking is an excellent way of making and building new professional relationships, and when approached in a strategic manner, can be very beneficial for career development. 

Prepare yourself

While walking into an event and winging it might sound like the easy thing to do, to get the most out of networking events, advance planning is needed. Forget about ‘working the room’. You need to establish objectives and research who is going to be at the event, focusing on those who you are interested in building a genuine relationship with. Putting the groundwork in may take more time, but preparations can pay dividends for your career progression.  

Getting to know you

It might sound cliché, but a good, firm handshake is not to be under-estimated when you want to make a good first impression. A firm handshake suggests someone who is authoritative and professional. On the other hand, a weak handshake leaves the impression of someone who is characterless. Just be sure that your handshake isn’t too strong; this can come across as over-powering and off-putting.

Good networking is not a one-way street; it’s important listen. Be generous with your time and invest in conversations. Get to know the person you are talking to and take real interest in what they are saying. After all, the more you know about a person, the more opportunities you have to establish genuine, effective connections.

Building rapport  

Good interpersonal skills are a valuable asset when networking. Doing simple things like making eye contact and smiling can project a friendly and welcoming demeanour.  

If you researched your audience, you should know what topics may arise during the event. Be well-read, aware of current affairs and up-to-date on the news of the day. You’ll be able to conduct and take part in conversations around the room more easily and establish a rapport with other attendees. If the people you hope to meet have a particular interest, do your homework so you can discuss the topic with confidence. 

Although current events are important, don't let the conversation get too heavy. Having an interesting conversation about current affairs can work well to build relationships, but make sure that the topic doesn’t veer into something too intense that might divide the group or bring down the tone of the evening.

Relationship building

The networking event itself is just the start of the relationship. Maximise the contacts that you’ve established by following up with them afterwards. Suggest meeting for a coffee or propose having a meeting to explore mutually beneficial opportunities. Opening and maintaining lines of communication should be a key objective of strategic networking, so continuing to build the relationship long after the networking event is over is vital. 

Finally, remember that when you’re at a networking event, you are essentially advertising yourself so put forward your best self. If you approach networking as a tool to aid career progression and development, you will have a much more enjoyable, productive and beneficial experience.

Orla Brosnan is the CEO and Founder of the Etiquette School of Ireland.