Being a motivated and driven recruiter in a competitive, candidate-short market oversubscribed with other recruiters just like me, networking is key. Without a professional network, I would not have a business. Networking is a modern day art form that is constantly evolving, often shaped by the trends of social media platforms for online networking that complement face to face relationship building, but the same tips apply when it comes to how to make a success of it, or not.
I could write about the rather obvious dos and don'ts of a networking event, like don't drink too much champagne and do remember to give out business cards. But ultimately, the biggest mistake people can make when networking is the expectation of results. Building a network is about connecting over common interests, it is not about asking favours. Like many things in life, you will only get out of networking what you put in. So if you seek to build your professional network only to benefit from who you can meet and what they can do for you, then you are wasting your time.
Building a business based around people has taught me that if you genuinely value someone in your professional network, you will have as much of a vested interest in their success as your own. This level of connection takes time and it is likely you will have a long period of acquaintance with someone in your network before an opportunity comes up for you to help each other. Of course, this may not be the case, it may well be that your new business connection is able to assist with something in your professional life the very next week after you have met. However, the key to building a successful professional network is not to expect this to be the case.
So whether you meet someone at an industry event, are introduced via a mutual contact or connect with them on LinkedIn, be genuine. You will soon get caught out if you are not. For the astute networkers out there, it is otherwise all too transparent when you approach them grinning falsely, hand outreached with a tactical glint in your eye that spells out your goal to bleed them dry of every name, insight and piece of business critical information you can possibly obtain.
If you really want to connect with someone on a professional level for the long-term, be real. Be yourself, be interested and interesting. Enjoy the introduction, feel pleased to have met someone new having widened your professional circle and then get on with life. Don't wait to be asked a favour only so you can ask back. After all, trading favours is transactional, not real relationship building.