Networking makes the world go round. Whether its for business or outside the school gates, building a network of contacts is vital. Parental Choice turned to Gay Collins, founder of three PR companies and a member of the 30% Club Steering Committee for her advice with regards networking.
“My advice to the mentees I spend time with has always included work less and get out more. Senior people, men and women alike, are judged by their knowledge, business network and their ability to connect with others. Yet networking is often the business tool that people spend the least time investing in and nurturing.
Women are often brilliant at cultivating a few, very strong relationships, which can equip them well in business. But a broader network will have a much more positive effect on future business and career progression.
Focusing on staying in the office rather than getting out to network means that women are missing a trick. Networking not only expands business opportunities internally and externally, it often helps women to find role models and business leads. And more importantly, professional events can make our jobs more interesting and enduring. Champagne and stimulating conversation sure beats office coffee with your head down.
So how do you make the most of networking? Be selective about what you accept, provided you are fortunate enough to have a choice. Then do some preparation. If there’s a guest speaker google them and think in advance what kind of question you may want to ask if they open it up to the audience. Research your host and other senior people there. And arrive wanting to get the most out of the time you spend there. Walk in with confidence, survey the room and see if you know anyone. If you don’t walk up to someone, either on their own or in a group of 3 or more, and introduce yourself.
Valuable networks are created by developing existing contacts and adding new ones. Work at thinking who you can connect to others that might help, keep a watching brief on how you can keep in touch. People rarely turn down a request for a coffee, and are flattered if you ask for their advice. Pointing out a relevant press clipping, sharing something that has interested you, finding reasons to build on that relationship – that’s how you turn a random grouping of contacts into a proper network.
So embrace invitations, say yes rather than no, get out more and drink champagne!”
Gay Collins has founded three PR companies, is a NED of JP Morgan Overseas plc and a member of the 30% Club Steering Committee.