Networking is about meeting people and learning. It's a long-term activity that will help you to:
find out about the kind of work you might enjoy
meet like-minded people
It's worth doing even when you have a job. It can help you to find your next one, as well as help you to learn and develop. It's not just about going to events, you can do a lot of networking online.
Start with social media
Sharing things that you’re interested in on social media is a way of helping people to understand what you like to think and talk about. These do not have to be directly linked to work. It could be something from the arts, science, big corporations or about social media tools.
Create a LinkedIn profile if you do not have one. Twitter is also a good place to start. If you're already using Twitter for social reasons think about if what you're tweeting is what you want potential employers to see.
You do not have to start by writing anything long. Just sharing some links or asking some questions is enough to start with. When you get more confident, you can write your first blog post or LinkedIn article.
Search for free conferences, seminars, meetings and events.
Going to events in person can be scary, but you can just go to listen. The more you try, the more you’ll find out about the kind of events you like. Focus on the topic of the event and whether it interests you.
The people you want to talk to might also have online discussion groups, a forum or LinkedIn group. Try searching for 'online community' or 'online networks'.
On Twitter, either start by asking more questions or make a comment when you retweet an article that interests you. The answers you get might start discussions which could lead to something. Asking questions shows that you’re interested. This will help to build your confidence.
When you’re using a Twitter profile with your real name for work, only publish tweets that you would be happy for a future employer to see.
Writing too much can make it harder for people to notice the things you want to say. It’s probably enough to start by researching and writing:
a tweet a week
a short blog post or article once a month
a longer blog post or article every 3 months
Write about something you’re comfortable sharing your views on. Plan your posts before you publish. Once you put it on the web it’s there forever. You could start with:
top 3 tips
top 3 questions
3 different angles on something topical
Going to events
If you want to check that the event is accessible, start by contacting the host. If this is the first time you've contacted them, send them an email or direct message. If they do not respond, try calling them. Be straightforward:
start with how interested you are in the event
talk about what you need
Can they confirm that the environment is suitable? If not, can you work something out because you want to be part of their event?
If the venue is not accessible and it can not be changed before the event, give them feedback to let them know what the issues are. You could say something like:
"I would have really liked to have come to your event but I need level access."
"If you don't have an induction loop I can't attend. I'd really like to come to the event in the future."
Give them the opportunity to get things right. Good organisers will want to do the right thing, but they just might not know how. If they refuse or are rude, try complaining on social media. You might get a more constructive response.
Carers and personal assistants
If you need your carer or assistant to attend an event, you should be able to get a ticket for them too.
If you need the event organiser to provide a dedicated volunteer on the day to assist you, contact them to ask for this.
Talking to people
The aim is to talk to like-minded people about things you’re both interested in. It’s not about asking if they have a job, or even trying to sell yourself. You are meeting people and talking about things you both have in common. These conversations can lead to future opportunities.
Do not be afraid to talk to the person next to you. Start by talking about the presentation you’ve seen or something else you’re interested in. Do not worry if they do not want to talk, they might be nervous too. Just find someone else.
If you're feeling nervous, planning what you might talk about can help. You could research a relevant topic, and ask people for their views, or just stick to talking about the presentation you just saw.
Social media (again)
After you go to an event, share or write about something you learned on social media. It all helps you to establish your professional profile.
If you're interested in what someone had to say, follow them and their company on Twitter or LinkedIn. If you talked to them and got on well, you could connect with them on LinkedIn. If someone gives you a business card, sending them a short email can be a good way of making contact.