Dulitha’s 5 Tips to Networking Successfully
30 March 2022
- Join ACS QLD Emerging Professionals Committee Advisor Dulitha Piyasena, as he shares his top 5 tips to network successfully.
Networking is a key tool that all IT professionals can use to expand their reach and growth. This holds immensely true in a professional context where it facilitates both expanding the connections one could have and exchange of knowledge. The emphasis of this article is mostly on students and emerging professionals seeking to optimize their networking skills and how to efficiently network to access potential opportunities in the form of your first job, or any change of employment in a physical networking setting, such as workshops, conferences, meetups etc. There is a plethora of networking events these days, especially in the IT industry which targets students and emerging professionals. Certain aspects of networking such as approaching attendees, absorbing information, and effectively participating in underlying programs can be quite daunting for any person within a limited period of time. This article lists out few tips and tricks in the trade that I have managed to pick up and utilize effectively over the years, both as a student seeking for employment, and then being on the other side as a representative of an employer as well.
Tip 1 – Network with a purpose. Know your ‘what’ and ‘why’
Just like everything else in life, you can’t get something when you don’t know ‘what’ you want and ‘why’ you want it. As a student who is just about to graduate or just graduated, your prime objective will be to get a job to kick start your career as soon as possible. Before the day of the event, it is your mission to have done plenty of research on the event, workshop sessions, organizers, speakers, and attendees. Formulating out exactly whom to approach and how in a limited time is important if you want to obtain your desired results. As a new graduate or professional, you may have few competing objectives such as finding an internship or fulltime employment, finding a mentor, or even interacting with a professional just to glean insights on new trends in your subject area. Prioritizing between these and focusing your energy on your top objectives will help you to keep your head clear of any distractions.
Tip 2 – Set few realistic goals to achieve at the end of the event.
You can’t improve what you don’t measure, and that’s true for networking events as well. Keep a written or a mental list of key attendees that you would like to speak to regarding achieving your objectives. This means planning your agenda for the event in a way that maximizes engagement with these key attendees. You can set few targets as to the number of new people you would want to interact with, what questions to ask from them, how many of them to add in LinkedIn, and whom to follow up and meet again personally etc. Not only these goals help you keep track of your initial set of networking goals, but it also provides effective feedback on how you progressed throughout the day for future improvements.
Tip 3 – Have your elevator pitch ready.
Networking is a two-way street. Just like you, everyone else is keen to get to know you better to achieve their own networking goals. It’s crucial that you have a quick introduction about yourself prepared when another person interacts with you. This does not have to be a sales pitch trying to highly impress the other party. It should be a genuine introduction that includes what you study, where you work, and why you are attending this event. Remember to listen carefully to others as this will lead to follow up questions helping you to connect much better. It is your personal brand that you are showcasing at these events, and it is your responsibility to make a great first impression paving way for subsequent interactions.
Tip 4 – Don’t ask for a job directly! Keep it professional.
Some may prefer cutting to the chase, but in a networking session you need to allow time between a professional connection to solidify. While your ultimate goal might be to find employment, it won’t be the top goal for another person to employ someone. There are still a few pitstops you’ll have to pause and build on before achieving that. Rather than directly approaching a stranger asking for a job, provide context about your educational and professional background. Lead with your passion and career interests that have mutual alignments with the goals of the other person – This is where listening first becomes important so you get an idea of what they are after as well. Also, use body language and verbal cues of the other person to check if they are willing to interact as it saves both your time and energy.
Tip 5 – Follow up and keep in touch.
Networking events can be quite overwhelming with many new faces and discussion topics. It’s nearly impossible to remember all names and what people do to begin with. I’d recommend connecting with them over Linkedin (Assuming you courteously request permission before you do so they can accept your request soon), or get their email address, whilst talking with them. I highly advise against requesting sensitive contact information such as mobile numbers. This way, you can send them a follow up note after the event, expressing your excitement to have met them at the event and carry forward the conversation. It is these follow up sessions based on mutual interest for each other’s work that will eventually lead to achieving your goals, given a strong introductory foundation has been laid during the networking event.
In summary, networking really does work if you have a structured plan on how to attend the event methodically and approach the relevant attendees with a purpose. Always ensure that you are working on achieving your networking targets, while staying focused on conversation topics. Being professional and courteous always pays off and bolsters the follow up sessions after the event. Networking is a psychological sequence of social activities where being genuine, strategic, and patient will definitely work to your advantage.
Advisor - ACS QLD Emerging Professional Committee
Lead Data Analyst – Bank of Queensland – Data Platforms & Analytics