networking

How informal networking can grow your career

It’s often said that ‘it’s not what you know, but who you know’ that is significant when it comes to business. Networking and making connections with others has always been an important part of getting ahead in any industry. Recent years have seen a huge increase in business-orientated social media, with sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook growing in popularity for both recruitment and networking.

With such advances and changes in working practices, traditional networking may not be as relevant as it once was and informal networking may be the way to further your career.

Whatever industry you are in, networking can be a valuable pursuit in order to get ahead. It can be helpful for hearing about new jobs and developments in companies. So what exactly is informal marketing, how does it work and how is it different?

Just as traditional networking, it is all about contacting, communicating with and getting to know business contacts. In this way, you build up a network of professional contacts with whom you can share valuable information and knowledge The way in which informal networking differs from traditional networking is that it is less structured and doesn’t need to be in a confined professional setting.

Informal networking is more about being open to meeting a range of professionals in a variety of environments and settings. Rather than rushing to exchange business cards with a contact at an organised structured meeting, informal networking is about letting the conversation flow freely and organically in a relaxed environment.

An example of informal networking could be a gala dinner. Such an event might seem like a formal occasion in that the attendees get the chance to don their dinner jackets or ball gowns and enjoy a spectacular multiple course meal. It offers guests the chance to enjoy an evening where the focus is not on professional matters but rather about entertainment.

However, it also affords professionals from all areas and backgrounds the chance to get to meet and integrate with people with whom may not usually have the opportunity to connect. This is just one example of informal networking, but opportunities can be found anywhere and everywhere. Getting to know people around you in settings such as the gym, the local community even the school run, you never know who you may meet or how a relationship could be mutually beneficial.

A report from The Economist Intelligence Unit, titled Entrepreneurship and Informal Communities found corroborating evidence that some forms of informal networking can be beneficial. The report found a correlation between success and those entrepreneurs who actively engage in business-related social media such as LinkedIn.

It is thought that this is because of the friendship aspect and sense of community. Often, when networking isn’t enforced and evolves organically, it can involve a deeper connection. The study reports that engaging with like-minded professionals can help “mitigate pitfalls and cultivate creativity and innovation”.

The lesson to take away is that in this day and age, networking need not be confined to business environments. Take opportunities to meet new contacts wherever you are, whatever you are doing and these informal meetings may just make connections that can be beneficial to your career.


networking

These networking tips will help you to land your next job

If you’re not using networking to get your next job, why don’t you spend the extra free time you have, writing a letter to Mark Zuckerberg explaining that the whole networking thing doesn’t work, so you won’t be using it anytime soon. Instead, you’ve decided to stay in your room plugging away at a CV, aimed at an organisation that just gave their best job to someone they met through their networks.

Alternatively, you could give yourself a chance, and network. This doesn’t mean you have to spend every evening on the white wine and Pringles circuit. It’s simply that you need to get known and let people know that you’re available. These days, there are lots of different ways to do that.

Take a look at these four key tips for using networking to get the job you really want...

1. Get business cards printed

You can’t expect people you meet at an event to find a pen to write down your email address or mobile number. So get a business card printed with your name and contact information on it. Then they can either take a card, or capture it with their mobile. Don’t make up a job title, if you haven’t got a job yet, or you’re working below the level you’re aiming for. Just tell the person you have a card - they’ll be impressed by how organised you are.

2. Find the events that feature your kind of firms
You need to get talking to people, so if you want to get into facilities management, attending trade shows can be a real network game changer. Dress for the organisation you want to impress, make for the stand, and start talking to people. Even if it doesn’t result in an immediate call, if you then apply for a job via their website and get an interview, you can use this as proof that you’ve wanted to work for the company for some time. (You needn’t tell them you did the same thing with 20 other companies at that trade show).

3. Networking isn’t always social
There’s a lot of networking that takes place away from social networks, even work-based networks like Linkedin. Look for webinars that feature major names or firms in the areas that interest you. For example, say you want to get into Facilities Management. The British Institute of Facilities Managers has a bunch of relevant webinars on its website - https://www.bifm.org.uk/bifm/Qualifications/studysupport/Webinars.

If there are comment boxes, use them to make yourself known. Say that you were really interested in and that this is an area you hope to work in. Ask for advice. Most people are happy to give it. If you don’t want to comment, remember that it helps when networking in real life, if you have things to talk about that are relevant to the industry and recent. This will help you get over any natural reticence.

4. Use all the social networks
Finally, remember to cover all the bases, with LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, to make sure you don’t miss any opportunities.