Business networking tips | Advice on how to network

Having a good network of business contacts is an essential part of moving up the career ladder. Without an extensive and appropriate network you will not only be limiting your chances to progress your career you will also be making your current job more difficult by not having people around you that you can turn to for help.

Therefore it is important to successfully create a network of people in business that you know. Below are a range of tips to help you create that network.

Business cards - wherever you go make sure you have a number of business cards and don't be afraid to give them out. This is your advertising tool, your own personal flier.

Your company should provide you with business cards. If they haven't then ask. If they say no then it would be a wise investment to have some made up for yourself. They are not that expensive.

When you receive a business card from someone, make sure you put their details into an electronic contacts list. Business cards are easy to lose. It is also wise to send the person a quick email the day after getting the business card. This way they will remember you, and will have you contact details.

Research - make sure you research the people, businesses and societies that are active in your field. This way you will be able to target the correct people and meet those that will be able to help you. Set yourself goals of meeting at least one person or persons from a certain business each month. This strategy will help you make the best use of your networking time.

Industry societies - joining the relevant societies that operate in your field is an excellent way of expanding you network. The majority of people that attend the events put on by these societies will be relevant to your career. You are also likely to have industry experts speaking at these events, make sure you get to introduce yourself to these people.

Practice - a key part of networking is practice. It can be particularly daunting going up to people you don't know and striking up a conversation but the more you do it the easier it becomes. The longer you are working in a field the easier it will become as you will know more people and have a greater number of experiences to talk about.

When you are first building your network try and get to as many events as possible. This way you will get to know faces, you will get plenty of practice talking to people and you will slowly build up a relationships with people.

Even if you are not confident going up to someone and striking up and conversation make sure you look open for a conversation when you are at industry events. This way people will be more willing to come up to you and strike up a conversation. There are always a few master networkers going through the crowds trying to meet everyone.

Email signature - although this might not be the most obvious networking tool it is very important. Email is the most common type of contact in business and is your key personal marketing tool. Make sure your email signature contains all your contact details, the company you work for and your job title. Keep the signature clear and professional, avoid bright colours or additional images unless you are in a creative industry.

Business publications and conferences - once you have gained a reasonable level of experience in the field you work in it is often a good idea to try and highlight your skills to a wider audience through writing in business publications and speaking at conferences. If you are working for a large organisation you are unlikely to be able to do this until you are near the top of the company. However for smaller companies that have less of a marketing budget this is often a very useful way of providing the company with free advertising.

If you have been working on a particular project, have been conducting research or have an interesting opinion then it try writing a short press release that will grab the attention of industry publications and the local and national press. Make sure the press release contains interesting facts that could be used in a news article. Gather the contact details of people who might be interested in what you are writing and email the press release over (it might also be worth a follow-up call to those that you particularly want to target). If you are picked up by the press this could provide you with national exposure.


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