Top tips by Penny Chester, senior consultant, RightCoutts
Networking often suggests images of powerful all-male groups meeting in
smoke-filled rooms or on the golf course, or the embarrassing process of
selling yourself to a roomful of strangers.
However, networking is simply ‘the act of building a chain of interconnected
links’ – using existing contacts to help you to achieve an objective, which may
be to find out more about the latest HR developments, to find a new job, or
just to meet new people and discover new experiences.
Networking can take place within your company, through established
organisations or through everyday contacts with family and friends.
Although simple to do, it is an extremely powerful tactic. At senior levels,
up to 70 per cent of jobs can be awarded without being advertised, and within
large companies a strong network is often essential to the success of a
It also has a powerful multiplier effect – talking to one person might give
you five further contacts, but talking to those five could increase your
network to 25, and so on.
1. Focus on your goal
Be clear about what you are networking to achieve – whether it is finding a
new job or gaining better knowledge of HR issues – and keep focused on this
2. Set short-term objectives as well as longer ones
For example, you may want to add five new contacts to your network each
week, or just pick up one useful piece of information weekly.
3. Use existing contacts
Don’t panic or feel you’ve nowhere to start. Ask yourself, ‘Who do I know
that may know other people who can help me?’. Think broadly – your first
contacts could be work colleagues, friends or family.
4. Evaluate prospective networks before joining
If you feel you need to join new networks to increase your contacts, make
sure you evaluate them first, and don’t just sign up to everything offered.
5. Use a variety of techniques
In some situations you may want to arrange formal meetings – for example,
with a senior manager or potential employer. If you are catching up with a
fellow CIPD student, an informal lunch or telephone conversation may be better.
6. Prepare for networking meetings
It is worth preparing a rough script – as long as you don’t sound as if
you’re reading from one! Timing can also be important when networking. Make
sure you always have copies of your business card to hand to new contacts.
7. Ask before you use a name as a reference
Make sure to ask if you can use the name of the person making the
recommendation when talking to their contacts. Most people find it very
difficult not to talk to someone who has been recommended to them.
8. Respect the company culture
Respect the culture of the organisation you are networking in and the style
of the people you are talking to. For example, if you work in a low-key
organisation, don’t start arranging meetings to tell everyone of your
achievements at every available opportunity.
9. Learn from your successes
If a particular course of action works in one network, use it in others.
10. Remember that networking works both ways
Although you may be asking for help at this time, in the future you may well
be able to provide a service in return – either to the contact or to someone
they know well.