Connections can be worth their weight in gold in business, and for your career. We’ve all heard the saying “It’s not what you know. It’s who you know.”

But what’s the best way to establish connections? Is it through networking? Is networking really important? Is it worth all the time and effort? If so, what’s the best way to network?

This week’s expert article explores networking by answering questions our recruiters are commonly asked about the topic. This handy list of questions was pulled together by face2face’s Mitch Porteous, Account Manager, ICT.

What exactly is networking?

Networking is about building long-term relationships. It’s not hard selling and it’s not all about you. Quality networking focuses on getting to know people you can help and getting to know people who might be able to assist you. It’s a two-way street. Sure, networking helps raise your profile by making you visible, but if all you do is hand out your business card and sell, you’ll find yourself not appreciated by others.

Is networking important?

Even if you’re not actively looking for new career opportunities, it’s still worth developing productive relationships, and exposing yourself to new perspectives and ideas. Networking can help you grow and it gets you thinking differently. Networking opens new connections. It can be interesting and fun. Career aside, you might even make new social friends.

Most recruiters and career advisors will tell you networking offers big pluses, including advancing your career. Those you meet will develop and move ahead in their career just as you will. In the end, you may be able to assist each other.

Doesn’t networking just eat up valuable time?

Active networking takes time but you’re in control of how much time. While some thrive on networking—indeed are even “professional networkers”—it’s important to be realistic about how much time to invest.

Consider your workload so networking doesn’t have a negative impact on your performance. Also factor in personal responsibilities, including family obligations and the need for down time. If, for example, a networking event is after-hours and you have to pick up the kids, then search for  networking events that don’t interfere or add pressure.

While networking is valuable, there’s no need to be out five nights a week, every week.

How to I uncover networking opportunities?

Think broadly about networking. Opportunities can even exist where you already work. You can network by organising weekly coffees with colleagues in your line of work or in areas outside your own specialisation.

Sign up for company-paid formal events such as conferences, talks, trade shows, industry gatherings and workshops, but also explore broader opportunities externally.

Search the Internet for networking events. You’ll be amazed at how many groups are active. Research them for the best match.

Also read:

Seven ways to upskill for the future

How to climb the career ladder

How do I network during COVID when lockdowns are in effect?

Search for online opportunities. Virtual conferences are held all the time. Online social networking sites, like LinkedIn, are valuable. Search for related events on sites like meetup.com

How do I become a great networker?

Remember that networking isn’t about that hard sell. So don’t ask for anything. Instead follow these tips Mitch has pulled together:

  • Introduce yourself with confidence and a smile.
  • Don’t dominate the conversation. Let others speak.
  • Ask open-ended and supplementary questions.
  • Be an active listener and be interested.
  • Focus on how you can help others.
  • Set time limitations with the person you’re talking to, so you give them a chance to meet others. It’s the respectful thing to do.
  • Be ready to describe who you work for and what you do—succinctly and in an interesting way. Practice ahead of time so you’re efficient and don’t babble on.

Read more:

Nailing the one-page pitch

Perfecting your elevator pitch–tips and examples

Do you have any suggestions for networking groups?

Research the networking groups that best suit. This could be a group directly related to your line of work. It could be one in another industry—perhaps an industry you’re thinking of working in at one point. Or it could be a networking group that specialises in important topics such as women or leadership. It could also be one with a great range of speakers, from many sectors.

Here are a few networking group options, but there are many more out there. Let us know what networking groups you belong too.

www.meetup

www.bni.com.au

www.woman.com.au

www.freshnetworking.com.au

www.australialocalbusinessnetwork.com.au

www.businesschicks.com