As a HR professional, you more than likely have highly developed interpersonal skills. But does that make the idea of networking any less daunting?

For many people, networking (particularly in person) doesn’t come naturally. It can feel awkward and uncomfortable at first, but as with most things in life; it can and will get easier with practice.

The Benefits of Networking

Most will agree that it’s worth suffering through the initial discomfort, to arrive at the benefits of networking. Benefits include:

  • Professional Development

You stand to learn a lot from mixing with your peers.  You might even identify a prospective mentor; that could help support, guide and advise you in your career.

  • The Sharing of Best Practice

If you are experiencing challenges or pain points in your job, chances are someone in your network has been through it before. Discussing these issues with your network will help you access fresh perspective, new ideas and invaluable advice for tackling and overcoming these challenges.

  • Improved Job Prospects

With senior HR positions, recruitment is often done by headhunting or on the basis of personal recommendations/referrals. Having visibility and a good reputation, amongst a network of your peers, can go a long way towards improving your future job prospects.

Networking Tips & Advice

  1. Practice makes perfect

Attend as many relevant and well-curated events as possible, so that you can practice and get comfortable with networking.

  1. Conversation Starters 

Forbes has a number of suggestions for getting a conversation started. Consider the following:

  • What brought you here today?
  • Do you go to many of these types of events?
  • What do you do? How long have you been doing that? What led you to that type of work?
  • Do you work on a team or alone?
  • What do you like to do when you’re not working?
  1. Listen

We cannot stress enough the importance of actively listening! Show the other person you are genuinely interested in what they have to say, through a combination of verbal and nonverbal cues (eye contact, nodding in agreement, laughing at jokes etc.)  Offer advice and assistance where you can; this will help to establish trust and build rapport.

  1. Make a Graceful Exit

Just as important as the first impression; is the graceful exit. The Science of people offers a number of suggestions for ending things on a positive note; once a great conversation has run its course.

  1. Keep in touch

Now that you’ve gone to the effort of meeting and establishing a rapport with a new contact – you don’t want them to forget you. You might consider connecting with them on LinkedIn and reaching out with a quick message, reiterating how nice it was to meet them.