In the midst of the pandemic, networking has gone virtual, and so it’s never been more important to raise the visibility of your personal brand and to continue to develop and demonstrate your expertise to a wide group of people. This is particularly true if you are looking for a way back into the job market after having children, or hoping to connect with new employers.
When I founded the digital marketing agency Wagada in 2011, I had no background in running a business, or experience in sales, so I turned to network to find clients for my new venture. By doing so, I unearthed a successful way to reach out to people, make connections and demonstrate my expertise. While it wasn’t easy at the start, I soon learned to work the room, make connections and develop a way to get my business in front of people who could support both my career and business goals. Choose your networking events carefully in order to build productive relationships, you need to meet the same people more than once, so choose a small selection of events and invest time going to them regularly so you can get to know other attendees.
Think about your target employer – who are they and where are you likely to meet them? Some events attract very small businesses, others feature larger organisations, so be careful to choose the event that is the best match to those you hope to meet. Make friends and develop relationships. Approach networking as a way to make friends and develop relationships – it’s those friendships that can lead to referrals of work, job opportunities or getting to know potential mentors.
I recommend dropping into conversations the names of other companies you have worked with and helped, as well as mentioning your success stories. It’s important that you listen to what people have to say to you, but also that you leave them with a strong impression of your knowledge and expertise. Grab every opportunity to present or talk at a networking event that comes your way. It is a great way to tell everyone what you do and demonstrate your expertise to a captive audience. Developing strong relationships does take time – so if you meet someone that you click with, invite them for a coffee meeting, to find out if you can help each other and see if you have any mutual connections. If you help people, they will feel far more inclined to help you back.
You can also suggest other people that your new contact might like to meet and make this introduction by email. Connecting and engaging with your new contacts on social media, particularly LinkedIn, is really important. You can then continue the relationship, liking and replying to their posts, so that they keep you at front of mind for when a new job or development opportunity comes to the fore. While there is no magic formula for building a strong network overnight, it’s clear to me that putting in the effort at the outset, while continuing to develop and maintain key relationships within your network, continues to pay dividends as your career or business develops and grows.
Cheryl Luzet, founder and CEO, Wagada (www.wagada.co.uk)