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Making the most from networking

Asking questions, listening and working out before why you are attending an event are all part of successful networking, says Younger Members London chair Holly Thompson.

"CABA

May 2019

Just thinking about networking is a topic that gets me feeling a little hot under the collar. We are told in business that it is not what you know but who you know, so networking must be essential, right?

However, I can’t help but feel that when I do attend some networking events the majority of people in the room are not attending for the same reasons as me. Too often I feel like I have volunteered myself to listen to a continuous cycle of 30 second generic elevator pitches and the person I am networking with is just looking to make an introduction and move on. I can’t understand how this approach could possibly lead to building high quality and meaningful relationships.

As a younger member who is still trying to forge their career path and someone who has lived in three different cities in the last five years, I see networking events as a fantastic opportunity to meet like-minded peers, be inspired by those with experience in the profession and gently push my own boundaries.

Unfortunately, it seems that my expectations are not living up to the reality. Am I just bad at networking? Am I not approaching it with the right mind-set? Have I just been attending the wrong events?

For answers I resorted to searching the internet. These are just a few of the many helpful insights I picked up:

  • Be selective about what networking events we attend. What’s your objective? Why are you attending? Who do you want to meet? Each of these questions should be considered before signing up to an event. 
  • Approach conversations with others inquisitively and actively listen. Networking isn’t an exercise in telling as many people as much about you as possible. Effective networking is about being genuinely interested in other people and building longer term relationships. It’s not just who you know, it’s what you know about who you know that’s valuable. 
  • Whilst LinkedIn and online networks are helpful tools, just because you have ‘connections’ doesn’t necessarily mean that you have connected with people. These tools should be used to enhance your network, not replace it. 
  • If there is a network that we want to be more strongly affiliated with we should volunteer to help or lead it. This is a great way to increase exposure and more intensely practice those networking skills. 

I have not and will not give up on networking as I think that it still has an important place in business for people at all levels when done properly.

Holly Thompson is Chair of ICAEW Younger Members London.

Younger Members London is organising ‘Connecting the dots – building your network for the future’ on Wednesday 8 May. This event will provide the opportunity to hear from industry professionals on the value and contribution networking has made to their careers, learn new approaches and techniques to networking and test them in a comfortable environment and meet like-minded young professionals who want to develop their networking skills. Book your place

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