The Aspiring Professionals Hub (APH) recently convened a workshop on networking with delegates comprising, students, University staff, members of public and diplomats who were in attendance at the Educational Forum which formed part of the activities marking the Inaugural Africa Week programme at the University of the West of England, Bristol.
We chose the area of networking as we realise how important it has been in shaping our career journey and is one of our mantras in the Hub.Our goal is simple – to demystify networking and to make it “real” for our audience especially those in the early stages of their career who might not have had the chance to network and for those who have, how to do so effectively.
The key to effective networking is to know what it is and what it isn’t– which we defined previously as ‘the cultivation of productive relationships for employment or business’ We took this a step further by defining it as ‘the process of knitting together ideas, people and situations to create opportunity.’
Networking is about building relationships. We discussed the importance of networking and offered some tips to get our participants started.
Preparation – you should always be prepared to network and prior to attending an event it is important to ask yourself some questions such as;
o Who will be at the event and who/what organisation(s) do they represent?
o Is it a formal or an informal event and if so, how should you cater for your appearance – would you need to wear a suit? Would dressing informally affect your ability to engage with any high profile delegates?
o What would you consider as personal success for you at the end of the event?
We also stressed the importance of having business cards. These are very cheap to purchase these days and having your role i.e. what you do and what you can offer, your contact details including a phone number and email address which you can be reached on is what you need to begin your networking journey.
Finally, we highlighted the importance of follow up. This can be arduous and often easier not to do but when done correctly it is generally seen as a polite gesture and more often than not, people do respond when you follow up after discussing and exchanging contact details with them at events.
So next time, how about a “Hello……, it was nice to meet you at…..”
We had a really interactive audience and enjoyed the activities where our delegates got the chance to plan their next networking activity. Hopefully we have met our mission of ‘engaging and equipping’ a few more professionals who will utilise the knowledge they have learnt for their development.
You can see some pictures from the event here
Photo credit – Olivia Dixon
To find our more or read our previous articles on networking click here.
If you would like the Aspiring Professionals Hub (APH) to run a similar workshop for your organisation, please contact us – firstname.lastname@example.org.