I recently chaired one of our regular “Women in Advice” sessions on the topic of networking and how it is about much more than finding new clients. Being the only male in a group of over 40 women, I approached the task with a small degree of trepidation but I needn’t have worried. What I heard was just as relevant to males as females, with very little gender-specific concerns or advice about how to succeed in developing networking skills that are truly career-enhancing.
There were four guest speakers:
Ellie Clark from Ashlea Financial Planning
Cathi Harrison from the Verve Group
Heather Hopkins from NextWealth
Charlotte Wood from Rosewood Financial Planning
Each speaker gave a personal account of their networking experiences and some insightful learnings. I’ve summarised some of the key points here.
Rooms full of strangers can be intimidating and that kind of networking fills most people with dread but, after a couple of years of Zoom meetings, it is good to get out and meet people for real. Some top tips for navigating in-person events include:
Purposeful networking – find an event where the content/speakers are genuinely interesting so you get something out of the day regardless of any networking outcomes. At such events you will find like-minded individuals where discussing the topic is a natural ice-breaker.
Don’t be afraid to approach groups of people you don’t know. They may appear to be ‘cliques’ but the chances are they are meeting for the first time too.
It’s easier to approach people who are chatting in a group of three than in a couple.
Don’t underestimate the power of good old fashioned business cards – even in this digital age, they can still be a useful tool for helping people to remember you and make it easier for them to contact you afterwards.
Financial Services is a small world. You will see the same people at events -befriend them.
The more events you attend, the easier it gets.
For some of the group, events designed specifically for networking have felt forced and fake. For them, unstructured networking works better. This is often just chatting with people you come across every day and connecting them to others who can help fulfil their needs.
Benefits of this sort of networking include:
A quick, unplanned conversation over a coffee at an event can often be just as inspiring and useful as listening to the keynote speaker.
You can get new business ideas, new hires and new friendships from being open to chatting to people when you are out and about.
Joining groups via social media platforms such as Facebook and LinkedIn (there are many other platforms – it’s about finding what works for you) can be a great way to make connections with like-minded people. It can offer a safe and convenient way to network and people are often open to sharing experiences and advice that can help you with specific issues.
Networking Top Tips
Regardless of how you choose to network, there were many great tips from our attendees for making it as rewarding as possible. Here’s a selection of the best ones:
Attitude: Be interested and interesting
Ask questions: people like being asked for advice, it makes them feel valued.
Demonstrate a passion for the topic – enthusiasm is infectious.
Evidence your ability to help others.
Reconnect with existing contacts – networking isn’t just about meeting new people.
Choose events where the time works for you so you can focus 100%. If you are worried about needing to be elsewhere, your lack of enthusiasm will show.
It requires effort – it’s called networking for a reason.
Be disciplined about staying connected – a valuable connection rarely happens post a first meeting.
Following up is crucial – your credibility depends on it.
Review what you’ve achieved by your networking. It is vital you get a good return on your investment when you put in time, energy or money.
Give before trying to take. Hard selling does not work, focus on adding value, offering support, advice and contacts.
Recognise that networking is not just for selling. It also helps reputation-building and personal growth.
Listening to the opinions of others is a simple way to widen your perspective and become more informed.
Professional trust is the ‘smallest circle’. You might know and like somebody but would you recommend them to one of your clients?
The right groups for you won’t feel contrived. If you haven’t found your “tribe” yet, keep looking. Or set up your own.