When you’re just starting to build your career or your company, networking can seem daunting.
However, plucking up the courage to walk into a room of professionals on your own can be so worthwhile.
According to LinkedIn, 80 per cent of professionals believe the ability to make contacts is key to career success and 85 per cent of jobs are filled by networking. In the recruitment industry, we place great value on the relationships we’re able to build with clients and candidates – they are a valued part of our business. So, what’s the best way to reach out to others and who should you connect with?
As a business owner, I have over 21 years of networking under my belt and I’ve learnt a few things in this time. The first thing I would advise is to be strategic about the groups that you invest time in. Think about who is relevant to you. These are people who are in your industry, who can give you insights, advice and support. It’s also best to focus your effort on areas where your client network is present, to place yourself in the same room as the people to whom you’d like to sell your expertise and professional services.
At Allen Associates, we attend a number of events, including workshops organised for recruitment professionals locally and nationally by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD). Since 2001, we’ve held an Investors in People (IIP) award, and last year we were awarded the gold standard for the second time. Our staff are incredible – we want to demonstrate our commitment to develop and support them – so we have spent time exchanging ideas with other organisations who have achieved this milestone.
As a business, we specialise in hiring within marketing, finance, administration and HR, so we will target events in these sectors in order to position ourselves as real leaders in these fields. We also run our own networking opportunities – our HR Hubs bring together senior HR professionals and employers from across Oxfordshire to discuss topical staffing issues and current industry news. For us, when we organise these events, it’s important to keep things informal. In my opinion, getting to know the people you’re working alongside outside of the office makes dealing with issues in the office easier.
Finally, I network within our communities in Oxford and London. To become an expert in your sector, you can only do that by knowing the challenges your industry is facing and peoples’ reactions to this. From a recruitment perspective, I need to know what people are talking about on a local level and how candidates are being affected by issues like transport and education provision. On top of this, I spend time on local businesses committees supporting charity giving. I have a real passion for supporting the Oxford Hospitals Charity, I sit on the fundraising committee for the OX5 run, and have devoted much of my time to a number of other charitable concerns.
By now you’ll have seen that networking takes time. You might think that this sounds like a lot of work for something that’s not guaranteed to bring you an immediate return, but you should see networking as a long-term investment. Building lasting friendships is enjoyable and if it also gives you a return later down the line that’s an added bonus. If you’re happy to give people advice and guidance in relation to job hunting, CV writing and recruitment, they will remember to come to you when they have a need that you can help with.
As with all networking, sometimes it’s about being in the right place at the right time. However, don’t forget to use your existing network – when you look at family, friends and colleagues. You’ll find you have more contacts than you think. As well as face-to-face meetings, consider networking online. At Allen Associates, we want to be the ‘go-to’ for recruitment in Oxford and London, so we run our own blog with timely, relevant articles for clients and candidates which attempts to maximise our brand.
Personally, I value networking as a way of keeping up to date, continuing to learn and finding inspiration for new ideas. When you’re walking into a room full of new faces, just remember to be yourself. People will buy from the people they connect with, so take your time with every new opportunity and relax into it. Keep in touch after the event, develop the relationship over an informal coffee, and get ready to be surprised – you never know where an opportunity might lead.
About the author
Kate Allen is the MD of Allen Associates, one of Oxfordshire’s leading independent recruitment agencies, that specialises in Marketing, Finance, PA/Admin and HR roles. In 2018, Allen Associates launched their first London office, specialising in Marketing, HR and PA/Admin roles.