If you’re someone who comes out in a cold sweat when you hear the term ‘networking’, don’t worry – you’re not alone. Many people find it difficult to strike up a conversation at professional events; even more so given the circumstances of the past two years! However, networking and relationship building is a cornerstone of the insurance industry, so avoiding it will mean you could miss out on some valuable career opportunities. Here are our top tips for getting back out there.
While online networking through channels like LinkedIn is popular (and was our only option during COVID), face-to-face still has its place. So whether it's a local event or a national conference, here is our advice to get the most out of your next event.
It can be difficult to mingle in a large crowd, particularly if you’re nervous about meeting people again, are new to networking or are a naturally introverted person. Arriving early will allow you to compose yourself, engage in one-to-one conversations or participate in small group discussions. It will also help you to become more relaxed as the event goes on.
It is useful to have a few general questions prepared to help break the ice and generate conversation. These could include ‘How long have you worked for your company?’ or ‘What do you like most about your work/role?’
Bring along your business card and don’t be afraid to hand it out if you feel you’ve identified a potential opportunity.
Bring a colleague
There’s no need to go it alone. If you’re not used to attending networking events, it can help to bring along a friend or colleague to help you feel more relaxed; however, make sure you do not fall into the habit of just speaking to them and nobody else at the event.
Practice makes perfect
It’s likely that you won’t be a networking pro after attending just a couple of events. Persevere and take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way by attending events near you including lunches or industry seminars.
Dress the part
Remember to look professional when attending networking events – you’re building your professional profile, so it’s important that you look the part. If in doubt, go for overdressed rather than underdressed. It is better to appear polished, than too casual.
If you’ve identified a business opportunity or potential new contact, don’t be afraid to follow up with an email or a LinkedIn message after the event. Research shows that the sooner you make contact after a first meeting, the more chance you have to grow the relationship.
Networking is a valuable professional and personal skill, so take the time to develop it and you’ll find new opportunities throughout the industry and beyond that will open to you.