· Know your industry—in any networking conversation, it’s critical that you know what’s going on, from latest news through to movements and ideas of the major players. Don’t assume that just because you’ve recently been employed that you know what’s going on in the field. Research before an event, especially on latest news. Be prepared to express your thoughts on current issues, and to volunteer your ideas where appropriate.
· Get involved—be part of your professional community. Unless you’re out there being included in forums, events, and social evenings, people won’t readily know about you. This means joining and contributing to associations, committees, events, etc. in your chosen field, or related areas. If you see or hear something that you have an opinion about, then say so. Don’t be left to hear someone else put forward in a discussion what you were just thinking!
· Develop a position in your field—what do you believe in? People may disagree with you, but if your ideas are relevant and well-founded, people will still listen to you. Professional debates can also be very stimulating, potentially leading to useful outcomes. People who speak about what they believe in bring passion to the discussion, which is naturally attractive.
· Make contact—Get onto one or two of the several online networking sites, eg. LinkedIn, Plaxo, etc. Reach out to old contacts and get back in touch. Also, see who they may know (ie. two degrees of separation). Make sure that your details are up-to-date! Also, perhaps join common interest groups, such as alumni of a previous employer.
· Confidence—you are good at what you do (if you don’t think you are, then how are you going to persuade anyone else? ie. go find something else to do that you are good at). But this does not mean getting on the phone and telling people how good you are. What it does mean is having the courage to start up a conversation and meaningfully contribute to it. Then people will remember you, ask you for contact details, and keep in touch.
· Don’t wear a sign saying that you’re looking for a job—if someone feels at the outset that a newcomer wants something from them, there is a natural tendency to shut down and move away—sometimes very quickly! Any discussion about what you might want job-wise should be a second (or third) aspect to a conversation in a networking situation. Of course, there may be times when a job opportunity comes up in the conversation—the key here is to not trip over in your rush to say how you can do it! Ask about the role, and relate how your experience and abilities seem suited. Suggest a follow-up, and go from there.
· Respect—This includes not leaving a conversation at a social function just because you see no benefit for you, through to following up with thank you notes afterwards. If you don’t acknowledge the other person’s viewpoint and value, then why should they acknowledge yours? And don’t waste people’s time. Think about whether there’d be a fit between you and them—if not then let it go.