Networking 101: How to make networking work for you

As Dan Harmon said: "Find your voice, shout it from the rooftops, and keep doing it until the people that are looking for you find you."

Whether you’re the life of the party or prefer to be the quiet wall-flower, networking can sometimes seem like the big unknown. LifeStart is here to give you a few hints and tips of how to develop a network that benefits you.

How do you build a professional network?

There are two sides to building a good professional network. One is about knowing about other people’s skills and abilities and the other is for people to know yours.

Whenever somebody is looking for a person with a specific set of skills, you can recommend someone that you know would be suitable. Equally those same people should know the skill set that you have so that they can recommend you.

It’s simple really, and you can start building this network as early as school. It’s about being observant and seeing what others care about or are interested in. It’s about sending them resources whenever you come across something that might be helpful. That could be an event you see advertised on Twitter or they might send you a picture of a poster they saw. The motto ‘Sharing is caring’ is the best way to look at it. The idea is that ‘what goes around comes around’, so if you send something to a friend today, maybe in a month or even in a years time they might return the favour on an opportunity you’d have never otherwise known about. If you start doing this to multiple people, you’ll have multiple people all looking out for your best interests and seeing you as someone kind, helpful and resourceful too.

How do you make the network work for you?

Leading on from the previous answer, if you are recommending people to jobs or opportunities, you need to make sure other others know what to recommend you for. So, when someone says they’re looking for: insert-whatever-superpower-you-posses, it should be YOU that first pops up into their mind.

Dan Harmon once said: “Find your voice, shout it from the rooftops, and keep doing it until the people that are looking for you find you.” which pretty much means you should share what you’re working on everywhere you go: whether that be in conversations or on social media.

The more you share your passions and interests, the easier it gets for everyone. And it’s never too early to start, whether you’re still at school, university or graduated! Tell people what you’re interested in and see what comes back. Although never forget to listen to others and learn what they’re excited about too. It’s a two-way-street after all.

Where can you go to find this network?

Wherever you are in the world, you can always find meetups and events to connect with likeminded people. You don’t have to live in a big city either, people network anywhere and everywhere! You can even network from the comfort of your own home! Read on and we’ll explain how.

The best place to start your research is called: meetup.com. You can find events based on location and category. Just join a few groups and go to the next meeting.

Then, there are co-working spaces. They usually host events so google your city+co-working to see what’s out there. Checkout the event section on the website or sign up for the newsletters.

If you live in a bigger city there might be a branch of some of the best known meetups: Pecha Kucha, FuckUp Nights or Creative Mornings are all great to meet like-minded others.

What do you say when you’re networking?

One BIG insecurity, that you might have is how to even start a conversation. Usually you can start by saying something contextual. “What brings you here?” works in every situation and in networking is very normal opening question to ask. Often the person might be alone and want someone to talk to talk just as much as you do.

If the person has just given a talk, ask them a further question. If they are someone you admire, a tip I use is asking people how they got to the position they are in now. It opens up the conversation and also gives you lots of insight to how you can emulate their success.

Remember, you don’t have to talk to everyone at an event, nor do you have to exchange details with the most important or famous person in the room, that’s not what networks are about. It’s an achievement even if you exchange contact details with just one person that you found interesting.

What do you do after networking?

Follow up! Whether that’s by email, LinkedIn message or sometimes Instagram, make sure you connect the next day. Considering they have already met you in real life this should be a lot easier. I often mention something we spoke about, especially if it was during a busy event, to ensure they don’t get you confused with someone else. You could even ask if they need any help that you could possibly assist them with.

It’s good to remind yourself that no matter what people look like on the outside, they’ve probably struggled with the exact same fears and insecurities as you. So, be caring and resourceful and always remember that we’re all just people trying to help each other out.

So, how do you network from your bed or in your pyjamas?

Well whatever the reason you think real-life networking isn’t right for you could be large groups make you feel uncomfortable, you’re not in a city where many of these events exist or you just don’t want to go out. here are your tips:

Have you heard of Slack? Many companies use it for internal communication, however, it’s also popular in various communities for people to chat about all sorts of subjects. Here are some slack groups you might want to go through and join: http://slacklist.info. And you can also of course always google what exactly you’re looking for.

Also have you updated your online profiles recently? LinkedIn, your blog, website, instagram; these are all online versions of yourself which can be a great way to market yourself to employers but also your network. Keeping your experiences up to date and your bio stating clearly what your professional goals are. Endorsements can often help as well, if they’re from previous colleagues or managers and you can also do the same in return. (Remember sharing is caring!)

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