Networking is an important part of any job search strategy. It can be key to learning more about the organizations and people you want to work with, finding out about job openings and meeting the people who make hiring decisions. However, networking isn’t just something you should do when you are in the market for a new job. Maintaining a network can help advance your career in many ways, for example, forging new funding and partnership opportunities or sharing resources and expertise. If you only rely on your network when you need a job, you are missing out on many of the benefits and will likely turn off those who think you are only in it for yourself.
Here are six tips for becoming a networking master.
1. Build relationships
Networking is about building relationships with people who can help you and who you can help. Like all relationships, it takes work. So don’t expect to ask someone for a job the first time you meet. Networking isn’t just about meeting new people, either. You should also consider people within your existing network of contacts, perhaps former colleagues or old classmates who work in the sector and could be worth reaching out to.
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You don’t necessarily have to attend career events, receptions, and happy hours and exchange business cards to be networking. While it does often help to meet people face-to-face, networking can be done online and allow you to engage with and maintain relationships with other global development professionals from afar. Given that many global development jobs require frequent travel or posts overseas, social media may be your main method of networking with others in the sector. If you are in this situation, read our nine networking tips for field based global development professionals.
3. Know your purpose and have a plan
You should always know why you are at the networking event in the first place. Acknowledging your purpose for being there will help you to have more meaningful conversations. Are you hoping to find out about new job openings with an NGO? Do you want to give your business card to a recruiter or chat with a particular project manager to find out more about their recent projects? You should also be ready to sum up, in just a few sentences, who you are, what you do, and who you help. If you are a job seeker, be prepared to summarize what kind of position you looking for and how your previous roles or experiences have prepared you for this.
4. Do your homework
Just as you would prepare for an interview, make sure you are well informed before attending any networking events. Do some research beforehand to find out if there will be any guest speakers and what kind of professionals or organizations might be there. If there is someone in particular you want to chat with, make sure you know a bit about their background and the type of projects they are involved in. Have a few well thought-out questions or talking points ready for when you meet them.
While you should be prepared to talk about yourself, don’t get carried away. Networking is about building relationships, which requires meaningful conversations, listening and learning about others. This can be your chance to find out the ways in which you could be of service to an organization or collaborate on a particular project.
If you are a shy person, not sure how to sell yourself, or just find the idea of striking up conversations with strangers completely nerve-wracking, read our guide to networking for people who dread networking.
6. Follow up
If you made a good connection with someone, follow up with them relatively quickly. Reach out to them via email or LinkedIn and mention your conversation. Share with them any interesting research, articles or blogs you might have discussed and suggest meeting for a coffee to continue the conversation.
No matter if you're a recent graduate looking for your first job in the field or an executive level professional looking for your next leadership challenge, Career Navigator offers articles, reports, videos and online events to help guide you on the first step, or next step, of your professional journey. Where do you want to go?
Emma Smith is a reporting and communications associate at Devex, based in Barcelona. She focuses on bringing the latest career and hiring trends, tips, and insights to our global development community. Emma has a background in journalism and, in addition to writing for news publications, has worked with organizations focusing on child rights and women’s rights in sustainable development.
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