Networking: a Buzz Word or an Effective Career Skill?

I’ve heard so much about networking in the last couple of years, but what does it really mean?

At it’s worst it is a meaningless business card exchange but at it’s best it can be a complete game-changer for you and your career. How do we make sure it isn’t just a buzzword but something that develops impressive professional relationships?

Here are a few key questions that you should ask yourself before you start networking…

How does a conversation turn from small talk to something useful?

This is something I have always struggled with; the conversation starts with what you both did last weekend but moving onto something more productive can be tricky. I’m not wonderful at this but, one thing I have found useful is to ask is why they decided to attend this event or join the online network. It can give you a great idea of what people are aiming for and what they’re hoping to gain. With a bit of luck, you’ll find some common ground and perhaps a way you help one another out. You and your charity can gain a huge amount from collaboration, check out this article if you aren’t 100% convinced.

How do we counteract geographical bias?

There is a lot of conversation about the charity sector being London centric and the disadvantage this is to people elsewhere. I think it is important that we are all making an effort to overcome this. You could organsise meet ups in your own area or make sure that you’re connected to existing networks, such as the NCVO or Institute of Fundraising. They host events across the country, in every region. However, the most important way is through new digital innovation’s for the sector, one example being CharityConnect. On the internet geography does not matter, everyone has equal opportunity to get involved in conversation and learn from others.

 

Can an online relationship become something more?

Arguably a lot of charity sector networking goes on online, through social media, professional networks and blogs. There are some great resources open to professionals to build these relationships including; CharityConnect, LinkedIn, Twitter but also through the comments on popular blogs like NCVO, 101 Fundraising and UK Fundraising. But can these short online exchanges become something more concrete?

I believe that they can, when you really connect with someone you just need to make the move to take it one-on-one. Arrange a meet up or, if you aren’t based in the same place, a Skype call. When you find someone who you could have a mutually beneficial professional relationship with it is definitely worth pursuing. It could result in both of you saving time and money and sparking a new exciting idea for one another.

Who should I speak to?

So, you’ve started talking to someone who works in a totally different area of charity work to you. You might be thinking it can’t be helpful because your work is so different. However, arguably the best learning comes from people who bring a new perspective. An outsider can bring something very refreshing and new. So to this question I say you can never predict who will be useful to you so don’t close doors on people.

For the charity sector to grow and develop it seems to me we need greater understanding and sharing throughout the sector. Networking can be so valuable for this. So let’s chat to one another on and offline to learn and share.

If you’re interested in continuing the conversation, join us on CharityConnect!

Anna Bland

Anna previously worked for CharityConnect, our online community for charity professionals. She's passionate about women’s rights, loves documentaries and drinking excessive amounts of tea.

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