20 March 2008, 18:25 PM
  • Networking is essential in business success, particularly in the food and drink industry, where competition is rife. Rachel Brushfield, career strategist for Energise offers her quick tips

Networking is an important activity in business and to further your career. However, without a clear purpose, you can waste a huge amount of precious time and achieve little. Networking is all about creating and building relationships, but as in your personal life, choosing these people carefully is wise.  What is vital is have a clear goal in mind. Why do you want to network? Is it to get introductions to useful people; meet prospects; learn new things; increase your profile; source suppliers etc? Here’s my top tips

• Write the place and date on the back of business cards so that you can recall in future
• Follow up a couple of days after the event with a card, article, invitation or quick e mail. Don’t be someone who forgets and misses an opportunity having invested time and energy. 
• Find a common interest between you and the other person and build on this theme
• Be a proactive networker – invite people to other events
• Keep in touch with key contacts every few weeks/months with a quick phone call or email – people get busy and it’s easy to lose touch and waste all that hard work and time creating the relationship. Find out what interests/motivates them and help them achieve their goals and they are more likely to help you achieve yours
• Join your industry association and put any events of interest in your diary - plan ahead and review quarterly
• Have an objective for all networking you do so you are clear if it has been worth your while
• Once or twice a year, research useful conferences and seminars and create a business case/put aside budget to attend. Attend and summarise key findings afterwards to share with colleagues to help justify the expenditure.  Evaluate the benefits and usefulness of each afterwards to decide if it’s worth going again
• Don’t network for the sake of it, except when your career or business is dependent on it
• Work out what type of networking suits you as you are more likely to attend if you feel comfortable, e.g. do you like small or large groups; morning, lunchtime or evening; hearing a speaker or meeting people; going alone or with someone else etc?
• Don’t forget the more informal networks which can prove useful e.g. the golf club, tennis club, gym, school gates, college etc, so remember to have your business cards with you at all times
• Make time to create an audio logo, i.e. when someone asks you “What do you do?”, have an intriguing response which evokes more conversation
• Don’t worry about what to say, focus on asking the other person about themselves – everyone’s favourite topic is themselves!
• Develop relationships with ‘supernetworkers’ - people who are natural connectors of people and events – they can be invaluable.