Networking is increasingly being recognised as a brilliant way to make new connections and market yourself for career opportunities. The key things to remember when networking are:
Make networking a habit to build a rich and diverse resource you can call on when in need.
One sided relationships where they give and you take eventually turn sour. Flip the coin and find things you can give - information, an introduction, a quick phone call - that’s easy (for you) yet valuable (to them).
Make a point of introducing people in your network who have shared interests. The more you're known as someone who knows interesting people, the more people will want to be linked to you, and the more effective your network becomes.
Friends often don’t have access to new information. So don’t disregard ‘mere’ acquaintances who can often point out opportunities that you hadn’t heard about on the grapevine.
Most people’s networks are largely invisible to all but their closest friends. Remove your blinkers and connect with lots of different people. You can never, ever predict who knows who, and who'll be able to introduce you to someone who could move your career in a new direction.
If someone doesn’t warm to you, they’re unlikely to help, even when asked. So build rapport with your contacts - by listening, seeking common ground, and helping out where possible.
Even the most superficial relationships are based on trust, and that takes time to build. So make an effort to stay in touch, and strengthen the tie.
Don’t stay stuck behind your desk, working away diligently but anonymously. Make a point of chatting to people internally - in the lift, at the water cooler - so that when your name comes up, you’ll always have an advocate.
Blow your own trumpet, gently! Attend professional meetings, lectures and conferences, and get involved where you can. That way, people are more likely to think of you when an opportunity arises.
If you find you aren’t comfortable chatting to strangers, practice in an unthreatening environment: at the post office, in the supermarket check-out queue. After a while, you’ll be able to start a conversation with almost anybody, anywhere.