If you're an introvert like me, I know you don't want to hear this but you really do have to network. It's not only critical to your career, it helps you develop yourself and build your skill set so you can do your job better.
What is networking?
Gone are the days when it was enough to exchange business cards after a meeting. Now you have to develop mutually beneficial relationships, extend your network and build a personal brand online.
If that makes you break out in a cold sweat, don’t worry. It’s actually not as scary as it sounds – really!
- Make time for networking – I know you’re busy, but it’s important to take the time to invest in your career and ensure you’re on top of networking game.
- Start now not when you’re looking for a job – It takes time to build genuine relationships. Begin now and actively work on your network every week – then it will be there when you need it.
- Go to as many events as possible – Companies, industry organisations and professional networking groups on social media have events all the time. If you're targeting a particular company, check out their FB pages for event listings. For general events, find out what's on at sites like Eventbrite, Meetup and check out What's On in your local city.
- Get out of your comfort zone – I really struggle to make small talk with strangers. My advice is to be yourself and be honest. Go up to someone else standing on their own and be brave. I often introduce myself by saying things like: "I'm not good at making small talk, but I just wanted to introduce myself…" or "I'm pretending to look busy, I was hoping I could talk to you." Of course, if you actually know something about the company they work for, use that: "I've heard about the wonderful work you guys are doing, would you mind if I ask you a few questions?" People love talking about themselves.
- Keep going – Networking events are only hard the first time. Next time, you’ll know a few faces. Each time, it will get easier and easier.
- Follow-up – After the event, make sure you follow up on your conversation. Send your new connection a LinkedIn invite – and add some information or a link connected to what you talked about.
- Keep in touch regularly – Don’t just contact your network when you’re looking for a job. Send regular check in emails. Catch up for lunch or drinks. Or congratulate people on an accomplishment flagged on LinkedIn.
- Stay active on social media – You don’t have to write a regular blog, but make sure you share content on social media and participate in social media groups by giving advice.
- Think of it as paying it forward – This not about asking for favours. Be generous with your business advice. Share interesting ideas or articles. Let people know if you come across a job that might be right for them.
- Look outside corporate boundaries – Take your eyes off your smartphone and talk to everyone you meet. The person standing beside you on the soccer field or in the coffee queue might be a useful contact. Go to volunteering events – you’ll be amazed who you meet.
Networking takes time and effort – but it’s worth it. Along the way, you’ll meet prospective mentors, clients and employers. Each new person brings you new perspectives and ideas. It’s a great way to keep up with industry ideas, develop yourself and broaden your horizons. And you get access to resources you’d never find in an online search.
So, don’t put it off any longer. Start networking. And if you ever see an Accenture recruiter at a networking event – come on over! We’d love to chat and we’ll introduce you to whoever you want to meet.
See you out there!
Accenture recruiters at the Oz Harvest volunteering event