There’s an old saying that goes “it’s not what you know, but who you know”. And this particularly rings true in business. Professional contractors are a notoriously clever bunch, but nothing can get them places better than a solid network of contacts in the industry. Connections can lead to exciting new job opportunities, easily gained and valuable knowledge, or an important network of industry news and information.
So, how do you build up your network of contacts to a level where the benefits become evident for both you and the other party? There are several outlets from which to network, and several ways to make the most of these as a professional.
First of all, the art of networking at events or functions has been cultivated for centuries, and altered to suit trends in business as the decades have gone on. But ultimately, it comes down to the one key thing: be present and personable to get your name known. It’s not necessary to become an industry celebrity to do this, unless that’s your goal. You only need to engage with a few contacts at an event to classify it as a networking success. The acts of being present and personable simply means engaging with those around you, including making eye contact, asking questions about what they do and most definitely not spending the event with your eyes glued to your phone or tablet. Nobody wants to waste their time or energy on someone who comes across as disinterested.
If you’re the more reserved type and find striking up conversations with relative strangers a bit overwhelming, try and find someone in the room you do know and ask them to introduce you to someone they know. And then repeat the process with those new contacts. It’s at this point you’ll be glad you came prepared with your business card so you can swap details in order to always follow up after the event.
In the past few years, online networking has slowly (but surely) come into the business world as a force that can no longer be ignored by those who are perhaps a little set in their ways. Professional networking platforms play a hugely valuable role in the industry today as a way for old colleagues or connections to keep in touch, or for new connections to be formed virtually. And there are many popular tools available that makes this easy for users!
LinkedIn, while not the only option to network online, is largely a tool of choice for professionals of all disciplines to connect with one another, request introductions from mutual connections, search for specific skill sets, and make recommendations of fellow connections. LinkedIn profiles also make it easy to follow up with those people you met at that networking event last week. It adds a personal touch with a virtual ‘promise’ to keep up to date with what that person is doing is business.
You can also follow companies on LinkedIn that have a company page set up. This is akin to ‘liking’ a company page on Facebook, except on an arguably more professional level, and almost definitely more refined to your industry. Following companies or connecting with peers on LinkedIn also helps if you’re wondering how you’re meant to know about the networking events going on. Connecting ensures you’re kept more front of mind with your connections. Companies will also often share news and photos from their events (like Oncore’s twice yearly client functions in Australia, or the quarterly functions we hold in the UK), so you know what’s going on, when it’s going on, and to contact your Client Service Manager or mutual connection to find out how you can get an invite!
Networking, whether online or in person, doesn’t have to be something you dread. It can be easy, simple and, depending on whose event you’re attending, even fun! But most of all, it can be hugely advantageous to those in the industry who are willing to connect and share their knowledge and opportunities with each other.