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Networking explained

Networking explainedWhat is networking?

Networking is the process of making professional contacts. You might have a goal in mind, such as getting a job or convincing someone to work with your organization, but building contacts is useful even if you don't: the more people you know in your industry, the more opportunities will open up for you.

Types of networking

Events

Events are a great place for networking: they bring together a large number of people and give them something to talk about. Some events are set up specifically for networking, whereas others might have another purpose but still provide networking opportunities - for example, conferences or awards ceremonies.

If the event organizer provides information about who is attending, you can look over this in advance to work out who you're most interested in talking to. But don't worry if you don't end up talking to who you planned: valuable contacts can come from unexpected places, so make the most of whatever conversation you find yourself in.

Online

Networking doesn't have to be done in person. You can network online through professional networking sites like LinkedIn, more general social networks like Twitter or specialist industry websites. Think carefully about which of these you use: contacting someone through their personal Facebook account might not be appropriate, for example.

You might consider setting up separate profiles for personal and professional use.

During work

Networking isn't always something you have to go out of your way for. In most jobs, you'll regularly meet and work with new people. Make sure that you take an interest in them and their work beyond the particular piece of work you are doing, and try to follow up once you are finished.

Networking with colleagues can be just as important as making contacts outside. It's important that people know what you can help them with, and that you know who to go to when you need help.

Tips to get the most out of networking

  • If you're nervous about approaching new people, start by talking to people you already know and getting them to introduce you to people.
  • If you don’t know anyone already, try biting the bullet and speaking to somebody new. If they’re standing alone as well, they’ll probably be as nervous as you and grateful for someone to talk to! Start by asking them a few simple questions such as their name and where they’re from: if you show an interest in them they’re more likely to show an interest in you.
  • Don't pressure people to do something for you: it's better to have a genuine conversation and build a relationship.
  • As well as meeting new people, it's important to keep in touch with the people you already know.
  • You won't get a good response from everyone you talk to, so remember that this doesn't mean that other people aren't interested in talking to you and it shouldn't put you off.
  • There are two sides to networking: getting to know other people, and getting other people to know you. If you dominate the conversation too much, you'll miss out on the former, and if you don't speak enough you'll miss out on the latter.

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