Federation chief executive Christine Little says networking should be approached in a systematic and professional manner. "Don't think all you need to do is suck up to the company chairman and a few industry bigwigs," she says. "If it's done badly, networking can get your name mentioned for all the wrong reasons, and if it's ignored, you will undoubtedly miss opportunities." The federation offers 10 tips for successful networking:
1 Attend relevant industry events
Go to seminars and training days and try not to rush off thinking you have done your bit just by showing your face. Take time to chat to people. Tell them what you are aiming for, hand out cards and ask for theirs.
Do not worry about the cost of attending these events. Little says: "Most companies will be willing to contribute to the cost of attending an industry event, so don't be afraid to ask. Ultimately, it's beneficial to the company as well because networking often results in new business leads."
2 Get involved in social functions
Networking does not have to be boring. Good contacts can be made by, for example, participating in industry organised sports events. You may strike up some useful relationships over a drink after the match.
3 Use recruitment consultants
Ensure that you have a contact among recruitment consultants in your field. Keep in touch, but do not irritate the person by phoning every other week for no reason.
4 Be bold
Introduce yourself, and remember that most people find networking difficult to start with. Think of an opening topic in advance, or you could end up saying something inappropriate or, worse, being tongue-tied.
5 Be aware
Don’t think all you need to do is suck up to the chairman and a few industry bigwigs. If it’s done badly, networking can get your name mentioned for all the wrong reasons
Keep abreast of current affairs and industry issues so you can contribute to discussions.
6 Don't be afraid to make small-talk
It will help you find out more about the person you are talking to and means that they are more likely to remember you: "Oh, you're the one who canoed down the Zambezi."
7 Don't linger
Don't monopolise someone or their only impression will be that you are a pain. If they start looking over your shoulder in an attempt to catch a colleague's eye, you know it's time to move on.
8 Don't crawl
Don't be too sycophantic to senior colleagues – chances are they will see straight through it and you will not win their respect. Contacts in your own peer group can also be very valuable.
9 Be a good contact
Offer a helping hand to colleagues and contacts at other firms whenever you can. If someone does you a favour, try to return it.
10 Keep in touch