If you work in sales, marketing or customer services - jobs that demand building strong professional relationships – you will already know the benefits of good networking skills. 

Having a reliable network of colleagues and connections can open doors and enable opportunities but it’s important to remember that no matter how social you are, there are still ways to improve and leverage your network.

More than just schmoozing

You could be the most approachable person in the room with boundless charisma but it’s how you use your contacts that matters. 

Make the most of your professional network to get breaking industry news and the latest information to stay ahead of the game.

Consider if your personal contacts and online connections could help with sales prospects and new business. Perhaps most important is to remember your network could be key to unlocking your next career move.

Here are some networking tips that will help improve you reap the rewards from your professional network.

Ditch the sales pitch

Networking may be geared towards sales, new prospects or the bottom line – what aspect of business isn’t? – but be warned: a bullish approach from the get-go can come across as intimidating or arrogant. 

Networking is all about building relationships - nobody wants to hear a sales pitch outside a meeting room. So whether it’s face to face or online, keep the initial exchanges light and informal - you are unlikely to make a sell within minutes of a first encounter. 

Engaging, energetic, entertaining

Make your first encounter with contacts memorable. The people you meet will also be chatting with others present so stand out from the crowd by being engaging, energetic and entertaining.

In other words, choose your discussion topics wisely, be passionate and slip in the odd joke or anecdote. You don’t necessarily have to start the conversation with something work related. Sometimes it works by finding common ground and building on that. 

You are far more likely to do business with individuals who enjoy your company.

Be relevant

Networking events are usually full with people from similar career backgrounds or who have similar interests to you. So when you do eventually get talking about work one idea is to draw on your own experience to get the conversation flowing.

If you start talking about your recent accomplishments why not mention the amusing problems and characters you encountered along the way and not just the big contract you won 

Clean up your social media profiles

What would you describe as the primary function of professional networking websites like LinkedIn? If you treat these online resources as a public noticeboard for your sparkling CV, you may well be missing a trick or two – along with potential opportunities.

Industry research shows that over two-thirds of active jobseekers now believe that their online profile in industry groups, and the ‘personal brand’ projected via social media networks, are important to their career progression. 

So make sure your profile is right up to date. Hone it exactly as you would a job application – not forgetting to edit the information you included years ago, which should now have been superseded by greater and more relevant accomplishments. 

Want to find out more about how you can fine tune your networking skills? Watch our 5-minute video guide here.

Set targets

Set yourself targets for making new connections. Interact with like-minded professionals. Discuss new trends, share the latest industry knowledge and drop your game-changing tips. Become identified as a key player within your sector. 

Get your networking right and you will never even be an active jobseeker. Your next job will find you. 

Our education recruiters have outlined their number one networking tip in the clip below:

Put others’ needs first

There’s much more to networking than trying to push to the front of the queue for new business and job opportunities. As with any other communication in any other relationship – personal or professional, face to face or online – networking is a two-way street. 

Think about ways of helping your own connections before pushing your own agenda. For example, it costs nothing to pass on the contact details of a colleague whose services might be appealing. 

Giving the benefit of your experience to younger professionals, maybe sharing the odd marketing tip or sales lead, might lend them a real advantage. 

Networking might well be about reciprocity and mutual benefits, but opening the door to a lasting relationship often involves simply giving. It’s one more way to make a powerful impression. 

What goes around, often comes back around.