Networking is something we all do in one way or another pretty regularly. It's basically meeting people and building relationships, but in a more formal work capacity. And somehow that makes it seem that much harder.
Sometimes it’s at formal networking events, or while you’re interning or volunteering. Sometimes it’s while you’re working in a cafe meeting customers in jobs you might eventually want to have, and often it’s with people you already know – recommending friends for jobs or just asking friends of friends about what they actually do all day.
So, to make it a little easier, we asked some smart, profesh people at FYA what legitimately useful tips they would give their younger selves to have made the journey to networking superstars a little easier.
Craig Comrie, National Director Safe Schools Coalition Australia
Approach conversations thinking about what you can offer them (rather than what they can offer you). It might be a new connection, a recent article you have read, or an offer of assistance. If you do something for them they are much more likely to be responsive to you in the future.
I also used to find at networking events I would often make lots of connections and collect lots of business cards – only to forget who was who. Take a pen along and make a quick note on the back of the card as a reminder about what you talked to that person about – this is just as easy done by sending yourself a quick email. Once you make the contact follow up ASAP. The sooner you follow up the more likely the person is to remember you!
Rita Khayat, Enterprise & Changemaking Manager
Volunteer. Volunteer your little heart out, and use all the initiative you can muster.
I made all of my networks through volunteer roles and secondments/work placements. In fact, I wouldn’t have my job at FYA now if I hadn’t volunteered at Midsumma festival with my now boss, 10 years ago! She kept tabs on me over the years, and here I am!
Sheri Johnston, Chief Financial Officer
I love one on one interactions so I try to find something we are mutually interested in and take it from there. Often it is my Canadian accent that diverts into travels. Remember no matter what position someone has, they are just regular people like you and I.
And always be consistently kind to others and people will remember you – I have had colleagues from over 10 years ago that have made some lovely recommendations or connected me with other people.
Carla Granozio, Head of Engagement
Be curious about other people and use this curiosity to network – people love taking about themselves and their job and their world!
Also if there is something you need and you know someone who can support you to get it…ask them! Throughout my career I’ve really learnt that the person sitting across the table from you doesn’t know what you want unless you tell them! And this could be in relation to so many things – wanting them as a mentor or seeking guidance from them on a specific piece of work or problem; identifying the skills or capabilities you need to develop and the ways that person can help you achieve them!
Dean Delia, Consultant in Residence
It isn’t about finding out what others can do for you but rather how you can help others. For me, I’ve found building ‘social capital’ is really just a byproduct of doing what feels right; helping others and paying forward the support others have shown me.
Also be yourself when networking. As clichéd as it sounds, people often sense if you’re playing a role and are less likely to trust and connect with you. If you’re a little bit cheeky, be that. If your introverted, own it. The truth is that just like when making friends, we do business with people that we like.
Sarah Alexander, YLab Design Director
Don’t stress about “networking”. Build relationships that come naturally and the network part will flow (plus it will be a network you like and want to work with).
For me, opportunities popped up through people I never considered to be my “network”, but rather through colleagues and clients who became my friends. I discovered my current role at FYA through a colleague in the same grad program as me ten years ago, but back then it never occurred to me that hanging out with my peers would lead me to my dream job!
Julian Ambrose, General Counsel
Do it often. And do it well. Networking is a skill that takes practice to develop.
Make a conscious effort to maintain contacts throughout your career because you never know when that person you interned with, or worked part-time at the supermarket with, might become a contact at your future employer.