Networking isn't always easy. Professionally it's also becoming increasingly necessary to getting ahead. Whether you're jobseeking or starting to consider developing your career, here are some ways to smooth the networking process:
Connect on social media
Networking is as important as ever, says Heather Townsend, author of The FT Guide to Business Networking. "However, the way we interact and communicate with people has fundamentally changed with the advent of social media. This is why your network and how people find you is crucial in today's job market." One trainee lawyer at a top city firm used Twitter to reach out and secure an essential work placement: "The firm I really wanted to work at were moaning about filing on Twitter so I asked in a tongue in cheek way if I could lend a hand. It was more natural than it would have been face to face, and I got the placement!"
One of Victorian England's greatest legacies was providing educational opportunities for everyone; whatever your field there's likely to be an institute for it. Whether you're listening to a talk on Crossrail at the Institute of Civil Engineers, or a discussion about Rubens at the Royal Academy, make the most of drinks and nibbles time. Townsend advises not putting too much pressure on yourself to develop contacts: "Just get stuck in. Most people are there to network too, so wouldn't mind being approached by a stranger. My goal at an event: just one high quality conversation and it'll be a success for me."
Join a professional network
There are plenty of online communities packed with resources that provide plenty of opportunities to network. Wendy Berliner is the head of editorial of the Guardian Professional Networks, a collection of community sites that bring professionals together to share ideas. Berliner says: "Using the internet can help you get information and guidance from peers who care about what they are doing and that's what the Guardian's Professional Networks are all about: helping professionals spread good practice, ideas and innovation among one another."
Nerves should never get in the way of developing a network, says Andrew Middleton, head of innovation and professional development at Sheffield Hallam University: "Confidence breeds confidence, and perhaps the best advice I would give is to be courageous in building a network. It's all about continued engagement." When Al Jazeera America made indiscriminate cuts last year, Delaney Chambers was worried she would find networking to secure a new job humiliating. "I aggressively searched social media for connections who might be able to help. Some people I reached out to were people I knew, others were friends of colleagues I'd never met." It took six months, but the connections she made didn't go to waste. "A recruiter from The Atlantic suggested I apply for product manager for The Atlantic's website. I got the job. I'm convinced if I hadn't done that initial outreach, I wouldn't be where I am now. It's not easy, but the more you get to know people, the more they'll bat for you."
Private members clubs
Conjuring up images of Jeeves and Wooster-esque men clinking ice-cubes, 21st Century private members clubs have been brought bang up to date - and they don't need to cost the earth. There are clubs to suit every whim, from those specifically for the media like the Hospital Club to those catering for a business like Adam House. Discounts are often available: rates can be cheaper for under 30's and for those coming from out of London. Clubs often put on talks by relevant professionals and run networking evenings. They're not only for Londoners either – check out private members clubs across the country including St James' Club in Manchester and the Square Club in Bristol.
Chat to strangers on public transport
Chatting to strangers in public is like the lucky dip of networking. Not being in a structured situation will help to reduce nerves, and best of all you have no idea who you'll end up sitting next to. KLM have considered how much networking potential there is when travelling and have introduced a "meet and seat" option on-board their planes for networking. Don't forget to always carry a pack of business cards – who knows who else might get on the 45 bus.
Give and take
Very few things come free in life, and networking is no different. If somebody helps you out, always try to be of service at some point. Even if you think you have nothing to offer, people will appreciate the gesture. Middleton says: "When you find and develop connections with people it's important to realise that an effective network is one in which giving and taking happen in all directions. Personally I work hard at being useful to my network – if everyone works at giving, it makes a network strong and useful."
Join a job site
Signing up to a job site can lead to a hive of networking activity. Sites like Guardian Jobs offer career advice and networking tips as well as opportunities to sign up for email alerts from sectors that interest you.
Upload your CV so recruiters can start conversations, which in turn will help to build your network.
Thank you to Eleanor Ross of The Guardian Jobs – Click here to review original article.
Jose joined New Frontiers in 2000 working a variety of roles from recruitment consultant to in-house recruiter and staff trainer and now General Manager. Jose has a wealth of travel industry experience having worked in travel for 8 years prior to joining New Frontiers with roles in retail and for a tour operator.