It's not just what you know, but who you know that counts.
Forget about gravity – it's human connections that make the world turn. Learning to network can help you keep your finger on the pulse and further your career. At its most basic, networking is about meeting and chatting with like-minded people. If you're looking for work, or already in a job, this two-way sharing of ideas and information builds connections in your industry, gives you a better understanding of how your industry functions and alerts you to developments and opportunities.
The key to effective networking is finding something in common with others. Joining an industry professional association is a quick and effective way of building your network.
As a graduate of the University of Melbourne, you are automatically a member of a 300,000+ strong worldwide network, and a range of alumni events – from faculty reunions to exclusive alumni events, as well as the Melbourne Leadership Series. These provide the ultimate opportunity to expand your network.
What's more, LinkedIn is rapidly gaining momentum as a networking tool, with recruiters increasingly turning to the online community as a way to head-hunt candidates via network connections and key search terms. Creating a profile is free and straightforward. Be sure to join the Melbourne Uni Alumni LinkedIn group when you sign-up!
But to get the most out of networking, communication needs to be two-way: aim to pass on contacts and information as much as you seek it. What goes around, comes around!
It's all about clear communication: a few simple tactics will help you to be an effective networker, able to build lasting relationships that provide long-term benefits.
1. Have your pitch ready
It's vital that you can present yourself – who you are, what you do, your anticipated career direction – in a few sentences. Practise this pitch so it's ready to go. Keep it clear, direct and concise.
2. Use a business card
Even if you don't have a job, create your own business card as a way to identify 'brand you'. Include your name, qualifications and contact details – and consider a 'statement' that identifies what it is that makes you shine (you could borrow from your pitch).
It's easy to talk to people you know, but a good networker will branch out and meet new people. Those interested in broadening their own networks will reciprocate.
4. Establish a link
Show people how they can connect with you: this could be a shared interest, industry or alma mater. As an alumnus of the University of Melbourne you have an instant connection to a worldwide community, and with social networking sites such as LinkedIn often highlighting where alumni connections exist, all that's left for you to do is say 'hello'.
5. Ask and listen
Like any relationship, networking relies on good communication – so be ready to ask questions of others and pay attention to what they have to say.
6. Play the team game
It's not all about you. You'll get more out of your network if others contribute to it, so be sure to share information and initiate introductions.
7. Stay in touch
A follow-up email after meeting someone will ensure they remember you. A handwritten letter is a nice personal touch.
8. Remember the basics
It's simple, really: be courteous, smile and brush your teeth beforehand.