Happy New Year to all our readers, I’m sure many of you are busy making New Year’s resolutions and perhaps for some of you the opportunity to enhance your networking skills is included in that list. As a frequent traveller one tip I’ve picked up to help me manage my network is marking a star beside everyone on the event or conference attendance list I’ve engaged with. Then when I’m waiting in the airport departure lounge I’ll take out the list and invite them all to connect on LinkedIn. Here are ten more great networking tips from this week’s guest blogger Sheila Cassidy.
I distinctly remember my first formal networking event – to put it simply – I was terrified! I had preconceived notions that it was for the extroverted and involved creating artificial relationships. My first exposure to networking was while preparing to travel to Washington D.C. for a summer internship. Thanks to a summer of having frankly no option but to attend formal networking events on a regular basis, my fear abated and I found networking became much easier. I have come to see the process as basically making a host of new and interesting friends. Now I don’t think twice about attending a networking event on my own and my initial perception of networking as a terrifying activity has completely shifted.
As I’ve gained networking experience, I’ve realised the importance of networking in a way that suits my personality and style. I’ve always naturally preferred smaller, more intimate groups so when I proactively network I plan one-on-one coffees or lunches. I’ve also used my own personal network to become more “networked” as it feels more natural to be connected to new people through people I already know.
Through networking I have been inspired, gained sponsors and mentors, got jobs, sourced guest speakers and been introduced to amazing people. Some of whom will be friends for life.
At PwC we hire some 26,000 graduate hires across our network of member firms annually and odds are that about half of these hires along with campus hires across the world are introverts like me. So I’ve pulled together ten tips to help introverted graduates starting out in their careers network in a way that works for them.
1. Be pro-active
Especially when you start at a new firm, ask people to lunch or coffee. If they say no – who cares! You are demonstrating your proactive nature to learn and connect. If you don’t know what to talk about, ask them about their career or what advice would they give someone starting out in their career? People appreciate being asked about their experience and having their opinions valued.
2. Be authentic
The most important thing is to be your true self and maintain authentic relationships. If you have an ulterior motive, it will be transparent and will prevent you from building a trust-based relationship.
3. Follow-up and maintain
Following up is one of the most important aspects of networking. You should ideally follow up within 24 hours to say “it was lovely to meet you and I found our discussion on x, y and z really interesting”. Maintaining the relationship is crucial. You can do this by sending on interesting articles or simply retweeting their posts. For example, I have an Irish colleague who sends all his American contacts a message on Thanksgiving.
4. Personalise your message
People receive hundreds of e-mails every week, so be different. For example, after I finished an internship I shared a deck outlining all the lessons I’d learnt and events I’d been involved in over the year. It was a great way to say thank you to the firm and demonstrated that I’d made the most of the opportunity they’d given me. It also worked as of the 150 people I sent it to two thirds responded.
5. Don’t forget about your peers and colleagues
When graduates think about networking they immediately think about networking with management and clients but it is just as important to network with your peers – they will be your teammates now and leaders in the future. Also, getting to know people from different areas of the firm is an important step; it helps to broaden your network and your understanding of the business.
6. Go to events on your own…eventually
For the first few networking events you attend, go with a group or colleague you feel comfortable with. You can observe how others network, gather a list of questions and see what works and what doesn’t. When you are ready to attend on your own, get the attendee list in advance and break down the room into more manageable lists, such as people you already know and people you would like to get to know. Preparation will make it much less intimidating. In addition, to combat the awkwardness of going on your own, arrive 10 minutes early as it is easy to connect with the first few people that arrive.
7. Map your network
When exploring what you want to achieve in your career or personal life, start to think about the people in your network that are already doing it. Map out who would be beneficial for you to receive advice from and don’t be intimated by their title. To share an example that’s close to home: I am passionate about Diversity and Inclusion, so when I started at PwC I reached out to Aoife (editor of this blog) and now I’m writing guest blogs, have a mentor and have made a friend.
8. You always have something to give
At a junior level, we often worry that we have nothing to offer – but you might be surprised. Junior members of staff often offer energy, enthusiasm, a willingness to learn and an appreciation for advice. If you are intimidated by reaching out to someone that is in a leadership position, try to think about how nice it would be if someone reached out to you asking for your time? It’s important we all remember that we each have something to offer. For example, we might be able to reverse mentor leaders on topics like social media.
9. Practice your elevator pitch, handshake and have your business cards ready
Have your elevator pitch ready - short and snappy with no wasted words. In addition, your handshake is one of the first impressions you make – make sure it is a good one. Keep it firm, dry and remember eye contact! Lastly, get business cards and have them readily accessible. A great tip I received was to write anything distinctive about the person on the back of their business card. If you meet a lot of people in one night it can be difficult to remember who’s who.
10. Say thanks
When you start at a new firm, you meet loads of people that are facilitating training, giving you insights into the firm or helping you with your first project – make sure to thank them at the end of the session and send a follow-up e-mail. The simple step of showing appreciation can make a difference and starts your relationship on a strong foundation.
Thanks for reading and to those who contributed their ideas. Feel free to comment on what your own top networking tips are below.
||Sheila Cassidy is a Senior Associate with PwC Ireland's Consulting practice and specialises in helping organisations during transformational change. Sheila has experience in the Retail and Consumer, Start-up and Aviation sector. Since joining the firm Sheila co-founded the Lean In Speaker Series in PwC Ireland, which is designed to encourage discussion about personal and professional development and diversity and inclusion in the firm. Prior to starting with PwC Ireland, Sheila completed a Masters of Science in Management and Bachelor of Law in Queens University Belfast and The University of Newcastle, Australia. Sheila has worked in numerous organisations, including time abroad in London and Atlanta.