Networking is a common term in the IT industry. It can have two meanings – the process of linking computers and other devices together so they can communicate, and the process of meeting and talking to other people to help your IT career. This article is about speaking to people – professional networking.
What Is Professional Networking?
Networking, or professional networking is the process of meeting people, talking to people and getting to know them, with a long term aim of helping your career. It’s done by a lot of people and it’s good to know what’s involved and why you need to do it.
Why Should I Network?
One of the most popular phrases in the working world (which you’ve probably heard before), is the phrase “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know”.
This means that knowing and associating with the right people can be more important than what you know or what you do. It aims to remind you of the importance of people skills and networking.
There are many reasons why networking is a good idea:
- Keep informed of career opportunities in your industry
- Learn about ideas and trends in the industry
- Meeting new people
- Understand more about other areas
- Developing your communication and listening skills
If you’re considering a career change, or looking for new opportunities for a promotion, you should be looking to network whenever and wherever you can. You don’t always get a promotion or change that’s just handed to you – you need to be able to find out where they are and take your own steps to get there.
How Can I Network?
Well, the answer to this is to get out there and talk to people. You can do this at work, at social events, at different meetings, wherever people in your industry or workplace are together.
You don’t even need to be in a group situation – you could be talking to a single person. If you’ve understood the answer behind “what is networking”, learning “how to network” is the next level.
Essentially, you make conversation with people and get to know them. It doesn’t always have to be work or business related – it can be a personal conversation. However, you need to know why you’re networking and why you’re there, in order to have an appropriate conversation.
As your career progresses, you’ll realise the importance of networking. I was terrible at it when I started, but as I got older, I found myself doing it without realising. Every little bit of practice helps.
How Can I Get Better at Professional Networking?
There are a few things you can do to be more effective at talking to colleagues. Some of these could be:
- Think of the reason you’re meeting people. Is it to find out what’s happening in your company? Are you looking for any new job offerings? Or something else? Knowing why you’re there will help your discussions.
- Networking is about being mutually beneficial to both people. Realising what you have to offer is a good thing to do.
- Get a business card made for yourself, if you don’t have one already. It should, at the very least, have your name, email address, and phone number on it.
- Practice your “soft skills”, which include listening, body language, and conversation skills. These come with practice and experience, and I’ve written about this in an article you can read here.
What If I Don’t Feel Like Networking With Others?
I’ve had this feeling before. I’m supposed to go and meet with people, but I don’t have the energy. I don’t really feel like it. It seems like too much work.
If you’ve ever felt like this, but want to actually enjoy it or get the benefits of networking, you need to go and speak to people.
But if you don’t feel like it, it can be hard.
What can you do?
1 – Work out why you feel this way
The first place to start is to try to work out why you can’t be bothered networking. Have you had a long day at work and don’t want to go to the event on that night? Do you not enjoy speaking to new people and don’t find it interesting? Do you have too much other work to do to be able to go out and meet people?
Try to think about why you don’t feel motivated or feel the need to go out and network.
2 – Start With Small Efforts
Most often, the best way to start something new in your life is to start small. You don’t need to start your networking adventures by signing up to and attending networking events or events in your industry. That seems like a big step.
You could just ask someone for coffee that you know. This is a smaller event, a one-on-one catch-up where you get to know someone or see what they’ve been up to.
It still counts as networking, its quicker, and probably less mentally involved than a big event. Starting with small events like these is helpful if you don’t have the motivation and can lead on to bigger things.
3 – Remember The Long Term Benefits
Networking is all about creating benefits and opportunities for all involved. If you’re lacking in motivation on a particular day, have a think about the benefits of networking.
- It can help you get a job or promotion in the future
- It can help you find out information about other people or companies that you wouldn’t have otherwise known
- You get to meet and speak to all kinds of people
- You can practice your communication skills, which are useful for all kinds of IT professionals
Sometimes when I can’t be bothered going out to an event, I stop and have a think of these benefits. I remember that it will help me in the future if I go to these events, and it’s a good way of meeting people. Remembering these points will usually convince me to put in the effort and attend.
Hope this article helps with your networking. What are your thoughts? Post your replies in the area below.
Image: digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
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