Five top tips that will help you become a networking pro

15 August 2019

Networking can be nerve-wracking. Even the most seasoned professionals can feel pushed out of their comfort zone when faced with a room full of strangers and little time to find common ground.

However, there are some strong advantages in learning how to master the art of networking according to Remi Descamps, an MBA Career Advisor at UQ Business School. He says building a wealth of contacts is vital to your career and the business your company generates.

“Networking is about developing relationships and is one of the most valuable activities you can do for your career, so it is important to make the most of it,” says Remi.

The good news is, if the thought of networking leaves you feeling overwhelmed, there is a structured approach you can implement to help find the best connections and work smarter, not harder.

Remi provides his top five tips for successful networking:

1. Meet people through other people

One of the simplest ways to broaden your network is to ask for introductions. Your current friends, family and colleagues are a great resource for you to create new connections and with the added bonus of already knowing you and your goals can put you into directly with valuable people with similar likes, backgrounds, goals or industries. What’s more, an introduction from a friend to other friends brings weight to the referral, we all know the saying “a friend of yours, is a friend of mine”.

2. Present a success story and create a powerful elevator pitch

Always be ready to show what impact you have when meeting someone for the first time. It’s that short sentence or two that captures your value proposition.  Creating a great value proposition increases the number and quality of your referrals. When someone asks what you do, lead with “I help people/ business to…”

Present simple and practical problem-solving examples that showcase your expertise, and more importantly, make your prospects’ lives easier. Used correctly, you can turn the conversation from the weather and sports to substantive conversations about real problems your prospect may have at work.

3. Follow up with a reason

A networking event is just the launchpad for starting a new professional relationship – your follow-up is the key to developing it. The clock starts ticking as soon as you meet, so it's best to start with your first follow up step within 24 hours.

Social media is an essential tool for follow up and building relationships - over 85% of UQ MBA graduate jobs are now filled through networking according to a recent survey.

LinkedIn offers so many free tools to keep your contacts front-of-mind for you (and you to them), and is a great place to connect with your new contacts and say hi. When you see someone has a work anniversary or birthday on social media, it is also a great occasion to follow up and reconnect.

4. Manage your time

Building relationships and real connections takes time, but it’s also important to keep track of time at networking events. Before you arrive, create a goal and plan how many people you would like to spend time with. Aim for a meaningful number of connections rather than numerous weak moments, five powerful new relationships will outweigh 20 ineffective moments.

Often at networking events you will have limited time, so make the most of this precious time with a strategic plan about your connections, time spent with each person and time you will spend talking with new people or building on recent connections. Don’t forget to plan for your exit strategy with the aim of adhering to your goals, a simple line that helps you to move along like “Thank you for sharing, I look forward to chatting again, but I just noticed someone I have been trying to see for some time. Great meeting you.”

5. Expand your network

If you are starting to feel comfortable with networking, or wanting to push yourself outside of the square, there are so many possibilities to expand your network; some good ones are:

  • Get in touch with someone you have not spoken to in a while, just to say hello. Reach out to an old co-worker, family friends, professional bodies, sporting event affiliates.
  • Join an association or group focused on the industry or network you would like to be a part of, then attend their meetings and get involved.
  • Utilise social media and the network you already have to find out about events with people you want to work with.
  • Find a cause you are passionate about and volunteer. Social clubs, not for profit organisations, whether that be internal or external.
  • If you are undertaking training or study, go and talk with classmates that you may not usually get to talk to; or ask your lecturer/ facilitator to connect you with alumni or other students who they think would be a good fit. Making additional contacts with people affiliated with your university or training gives you a solid base of shared experiences — and a strong connection to build upon.
  • Become a coach or mentor leaning into one of your strengths that will not only share your skills but also expose yourself to new ways to approach tasks from your mentee.  

Learn more and reach out to the MBA Careers Team at the UQ Business School.