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Networking isn’t just about events!

When you hear the word networking do you immediately start planning the stunning outfit you’ll wear so you look your best to meet and mingle with really gorgeous super cool people?

Or do you groan and imagine yourself entering a crowded room (feeling awkward and uncomfortable) where you don’t know anyone and you know you’re going to be expected to speak about yourself?

If you shudder at the idea of networking at events, you are definitely not alone.

I recently raised a discussion about networking at the Career by Design (a 1 day workshop for women at a career crossroads) and there was an audible groan around the room.

Most often when we think of networking we evoke an image of a crowded networking event where there is a LOT of talking, plenty of exchanging business cards and the odd promise of staying in touch.

So if you’re not the big event type woman… what are you doing instead?

You know you should be building and nurturing your professional network!

Your next promotion or new position is unlikely to come from Seek or the Saturday papers. Rather it will come from an introduction, recommendation or a friendly heads up from someone within your network. A recruitment consultant I was “networking” with recently suggested that up to 70% of roles are never advertised.

So to tap effectively into this market you need to be well connected with people who know who you are, recognise your unique skills and capabilities and know the types of roles you would be interested in.

Networking is about creating mutually beneficial relationships.

Yes … relationships. Not just connections. Relationships.

Building and nurturing your network can be as simple as catching up with people who you already know or who you have been introduced to.

Here are my top tips for networking without ever attending a networking event.

1. Get strategic. As women we are all busy, so preparation is key. Get clear on the outcomes you want from networking. This will vary depending on your career priorities. You may be positioning for a new job or promotion or you may be seeking guidance and support to grow your skills and capabilities.

2. Expand your inner circle. Your professional network is no doubt already filled with riches. It’s time to tap into it and reconnect with some long lost professional acquaintances. Start with people who you have met or worked with in the past. Pick up the phone and say hello or connect with them on LinkedIn.

3. It all happens over coffee. It’s time to step away from you desk and create a face to face connection. Be mindful that time is our most precious resource so be respectful of both yours and theirs. A quick catch up over coffee works or a lunch time walk are my personal favourites.

4. Relationships first. That’s right, relationships first, business second. This is not about bombarding your coffee date with a verbal version of your CV then blurting out a desperate plea for a job or mentoring. Far from it.

 Instead, ask for advice or for a recommendation of who they might be able to introduce you to, to further your career or job hunt. People are usually way more willing to help than we ever expect.

And remember that all great relationships take time and genuine care. They are two way and build on mutual trust and respect. And don’t forget your manners. Show your appreciation by sending a hand written note.

5. Make the time. I know what you’re saying. “Jane I don’t have time.” Yes I know you’re busy but this is important. It’s best to cultivate relationships way before you need them.

I’ve worked with many women who’ve been made redundant and those with the healthiest networks re-entered the workforce much more quickly than those who were starting from scratch.

And at the end of the day ….your network will ultimately enrich your life.

More than anything… life is so much more interesting and enjoyable when we are surrounded by people who we care about.

I am eternally grateful for the amazing women (and a few special men) in my inner circle of professional relationships. They lift me up, challenge me, look out for me, advocate for me. Together we have let off steam and shed a few tears. We’ve celebrated milestones and shared the odd glass of bubbles.

Who’s in your inner circle?

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