The power of face-to-face networking: how to build professional relationships

The power of face-to-face networking: how to build professional relationships
The power of face-to-face networking: how to build professional relationships

posted 11 Oct 23

As the saying goes, ‘it’s not what you know, it’s who you know’. Skills and experience are certainly important to help you carry out your role or find a new job, but there is some truth in the age-old phrase, as making valuable connections can help you get ahead professionally. 

Most businesses network in some form, whether that’s to find new clients, grow their team or connect with their peers. Therefore, don’t underestimate the power of being in a room with the right people. 

What are the benefits of networking? 

  • Building your reputation, so that people think of you when a new opportunity arises. 
  • Receiving career advice and tips from experts in your industry.  
  • Sparking ideas for new ways of working, especially if you’re facing challenges or are starting out in your role or specialism.  
  • Building your confidence and interpersonal skills, enabling you to grow and develop personally and in your profession. 
  • Stay on top of industry trends and topics, so you can adapt to change. 

How do I find the networking style for me? 

There are hundreds of groups, workshops, and meetings across the UK. With so many options to choose from, how do you find the right ones for you when you’re building a network from scratch?  

Think about what you want to get out of networking and what spaces you’d benefit from being in most: 

  • Do you want to work for a small or local company? Find networks that support small business and SMEs. 
  • Would you like to develop your corporate career? Look for meetings, fairs, and events targeted at professionals from larger enterprises or traditional firms. 
  • Are you looking to network within your industry? Keep an eye out for groups specifically catered to certain specialisms.  
  • Would you prefer structured events or more casual meetings? From speed networking and coffee clubs to panels and discussions, there are many different styles of events -. Why not try a few out and discover what you like?

How do I find networking opportunities?  

If you’re dipping your toe into the world of creating connections, you may be wondering where to start when networking. Here are five avenues to explore:    

  • Check out event sites. Sites like Eventbrite and Meetup are fantastic resources for finding events near you (and further afield). 
  • Attend careers or jobs fairs.  great way to get in front of employers looking to hire, whether you’re a graduate, career changer, interested in apprenticeships, or on the hunt for a new role. Check out The UK Careers Fair, which has events in over 70 locations across the UK. 
  • Utilise social media. Join local Facebook groups or ones specifically targeted at your profession, specialism, demographic, or interests. Events are often posted in groups by admins and other members. On LinkedIn, type ‘networking’ and the town or city you’d like to find events in the search bar. 
  • Check out local organisations. Councils, universities, and the Chamber of Commerce often organise or host networking sessions and jobs fairs. Have a look at their websites or sign up for mailing lists. 
    • Join a professional body. Many associations host events and networking opportunities included within a membership or that you can attend as a guest. 
    • Keep your eye out offline. Newspapers, magazines, flyers, and noticeboards are another great way to discover networking opportunities. Your local paper may also have an events section on its website. 

How do I get the most out of networking?  

Our top networking tips for your next face-to-face meeting:  

  • Be genuine. The most important thing is to be yourself. You’re there to form new professional relationships, so you want to start them on a good note. People will respond to the real, authentic you if you give them a chance to. 
  • Be prepared to talk about yourself. Some events will call for everyone to give a 60-second pitch, but not all. Whatever the format, before you go, consider the key points you want to make about what you do or what you’re looking for.  
  • Take an interest in other people. Remember, networking is a two-way street. The people you’re talking to are also there to get something out of the experience. Make eye contact, actively participate in conversations and ask questions so whoever you’re speaking with feels valued.  
  • Bring business cards with you. Make it easy for people to get in touch with you afterwards. Your employer may be able to provide business cards. Alternatively, there are online and local printers that can create them for you. 
  • Be open-minded. You never know who or what you might need in the future. Don’t be closed off to talking to people with different backgrounds or in other industries than yours. It could open doors later down the line. 
  • Scan the room. Decide who you want to strike up a conversation with. However, you can’t talk to everyone at an event. If you didn’t get to speak to someone, get their details or ask for a business card. You can connect with them afterwards and suggest a meeting. 
  • Follow up. After an event, set time aside to connect with people you’ve spoken with by email or LinkedIn. Keep the conversation going and strengthen relationships by booking a 1-2-1 or going for a coffee. 

Networking is a powerful way to advance your career and boost personal development. It can be a productive and enjoyable way to meet new people, and even create connections for life.  

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