Networking comes naturally to many people, it comes down to confidence and faith in your abilities and a little self awareness. For some it’s a gift but others it’s a bit more daunting. Within most professional careers networking is essential as they say it’s not what you know but who you know. I believe this to be very true also for the human rights sector. Yet how do you sell yourself without sounding desperate or having an inflated ego? Well, networking is simply a marketing tool and thankfully it is something which can be learned, honed and developed. From face-to-face human rights conferences, UN meetings, to less formal social opportunities like coffee or after-work drinks, there are also a wide variety of online and social networking methods including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Blogs.
Networking is the ability to connect and form common grounds of interest with people. Career wise it has the ability to open many doors and opportunities for you at any stage of career. Networking and meeting the right people can reward you free advice, build your reputation through word-of-mouth referrals and increase your credibility, trust, professionalism, knowledge and expertise.
The Do’s and Don’ts networking:
- Be confident – Sitting alone and not working the room is not beneficial for anyone. Mingle! Don’t be afraid to speak to people, go and say hello. At the end of the day they will probably be relieved you made the first move, as they are most likely just as nervous as you.
- Be prepared with your “Elevator Pitch” – What is it that you want? Are you trying to get a job, promote your project, start a blog or an internship. Be fully prepared with your objectives, why it is important, how you will make it happen and what you need to complete it. Be brief but concise and accurate when speaking. Ensure you are engaging your listener, your pitch must be interesting – leaving them to want to know more. Most importantly make it memorable! You want to stand out from all the other pitches they will hear today.
- Business cards – Ensure you have enough with you as they are a great way to exchange details. After you meet each person be sure to make a little note on the back of their card so you remember exactly who they are. Also, when handing your card to them write the place you met so they remember you!
- Follow up – This is the most ESSENTIAL part. You MUST follow up and do so quickly. Email them a few days later and write in a friendly tone. Thank them for giving you their time and compliment them related to their work.
- Pay attention – Listen and learn from what people say. Be attentive and demonstrate that you have a genuine interest in their work.
- Quid-pro-quo – You cannot expect to get something without offering anything in return. Offer free help, favors, advice or reduced cost services.
Prepare questions – When networking you must be prepared with questions. Do some homework of who you are going to meet. The more questions you have the more fruitful the conversation. Really think about what you want to learn from them.
- Don’t be shy– Bite the bullet and go for it. There is absolutely no point in being quiet and shy. Be confident!
- Don’t spend all your time with ONE person – Be sure to socialise fully and mingle as best you can. Spend quality time with each person to make a real connection and then move on. It’s best to speak to as many people as you can.
- Don’t just talk about yourself – Self promotion is an artful tact therefore it is important not to over sell yourself. Be confident but not arrogant. Demonstrate your knowledge factually and don’t be afraid to ask questions. This shows your curiosity and passion on the subject.
- Don’t forget to follow up – As mentioned above this is THE KEY to success.
Networking in person is the most powerful medium as nothing beats a face to face connection but at the sametime in today’s world social media is a hugely valuable networking resource. It creates channels to reach people that you may never necessarily have the chance to meet in person. For example if you are part of an academic network or follow someone online then writing comments and posing questions on an article they have written or in a members forum, can begin to develop a relationship with the person. Twitter can be one ideal platform to make this initial connection.
Another lucrative platform is of course LinkedIn. You need to give a lot of consideration to your profile here. Think about what your profile is saying about you. Ensure your profile is updated with all your latest jobs and qualifications. Your profile picture is also important, ensure it is friendly and professional. Also on LinkedIn: Each person on the network gets their own Web address (or URL), making you searchable by Google and Yahoo! Therefore by simply typing your name into any search engine your LinkedIn profile will appear.
Always remember you will be judged by you social media profiles. This is the information that people will form their opinion of you on so ensure your profile is up-to-date, correct and complimentary.
It is important to remember that building relationships takes time steadily and developing a professional network requires daily attention, and does not happen overnight. Be patience and always follow up!