Networking is essential when looking for work in any industry. However, it’s no secret that most people hate doing it.
Connecting online is easy — we do it every day. Sadly in life, when you’re faced with a room full of people, there’s no ‘connect’ button to hide behind.
But the magnetism that comes from having a human, face-to-face conversation with someone who was once a stranger can’t be replicated by a click and is less likely to be forgotten.
Here are some top tips to share with job seekers, or current employees attending a networking event:
Tip #1 — Who to talk to?
When arriving at a social or networking event, you should pluck up the courage and do something your mum told you never to do… talk to strangers!
By far, the most accessible people to approach are the people standing on their own. Nobody goes to a social or networking event to stand in a solitary corner — help them out! Start with ‘Do you mind if I join you?’ and take it from there…
The next best group is the ‘open two’ (i.e. both facing out). Closed groups and larger groups can be more brutal to approach and may find you as an interruption unless you recognise someone who can ease your entry into the group.
Tip #2 — What to ask?
Many people have an issue with networking in the traditional sense because it feels awkward. Nobody wants to speak to someone who is only making conversation with them because they feel like they should.
Networking, done right, doesn’t have to be that way.
And it starts with you.
When you strike up a conversation with a stranger, you’ve got a unique opportunity to learn and explore topics and points of view that you’d never have thought of before.
Ask questions and be (don’t just seem) genuinely interested. As with most human interactions, this curiosity will be reciprocated.
Not sure what questions to ask? Here are some great open-ended questions to engage people at networking events:
“What’s your area of expertise?”
“How did you get started in what you do?”
“What do you do when you’re not working?”
“What’s the most exciting thing you’re working on at the moment?”
“What are your plans for the next …?”
Tip #3 — Responses that you need to prepare for?
Experts suggest that ‘What do you do?’ and ‘How’s business?’ are by far the two most common questions asked in networking events. And I’m sure you probably ask these questions yourself.
The trouble is if you’re like most people, you also make up answers to these questions on the spot each time. But suppose you’ve thought ahead about how you might answer these questions.
Avoid telling them in any detail about what you do but perhaps have an engaging story or parallel about what you do — perhaps about a recent piece of work or service that worked out well for a previous/current employer.
In that case, you’ll naturally respond more confidently in a way that opens up further opportunities to engage the interest of the other party.
Tip #4 — Make it personal
It’s one of the quickest ways to build trust.
And trust is going to be crucial in getting people to want to work with you or recommend you.
Start with the obvious stuff, hobbies, children, holiday destinations, anything non-business related.
This often softens and relaxes people and will make it feel like you’re getting to know one another rather than just networking.
Tip #5 — Take 2 minutes to follow-up within 3 days
So you’ve done a great job at shaking hands, exchanging pleasantries and business cards which are now somewhere in the pocket of that jacket… you think.
Amazingly, it’s estimated around 80% of the time, leads from networking events are never followed up.
It’s far too easy to get back to the office and get back to ‘work’, but this is the key reason many networkers claim that networking doesn’t work for them. Try not to make this mistake.
Please take a couple of minutes to drop them a quick email as soon as possible with a link to that interesting article you were discussing. Go ahead and press that ‘connect’ button on LinkedIn, even give them a quick call.
If you want something to come of your efforts, take the time to cement your acquaintance. When following up, remember three rules:
- Respond quickly
- Add value immediately
- Play the long game
If you’re looking for a new job in the nuclear, or any industry, they probably won’t employ you on the spot unless you get lucky. You have to move quickly and get your long game underway.
You’re continuing to build the business relationship you started at the networking event. Good networking is good relationship building, and hopefully, when they need some help, they’ll remember you.
Think about what you can do, give, share, offer or introduce them to something that’ll be of value for them and easy for you.
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