By Dale Rolfe Career How to network like a pro 6 May 2015 For many, networking is a career phobia akin to public speaking or asking your boss for a raise. And for good reason – a study published in Administrative Science Quarterly found that networking left people feeling dirty. This may stem from the fact that networking can feel inherently insincere as you reach out to others for the purpose of professional gain rather than emotional connection. But networking doesn’t have to involve circling a room full of strangers with greasy canapé and warm champagne in hand trying to deliver a witty icebreaker. By focusing on your natural strengths and finding genuine ways to connect with others, you’ll be able expand your network without feeling fake. Use our tips below for feel-good networking. Talk to the people you already talk to One way to avoid trying to impress people you don’t know is, well, not to do it. The people in your life with whom you already have natural, real connections are one of your greatest resources. Even though your friends and family may not be in your industry, their network might include someone who is. Being open about your eagerness for change will lead others to offer (rather than force you to ask) to open doors on your behalf. Do things you like Grappling for something to talk about to the senior colleague you bump into in the elevator is high on the ick-ometer. Rather than feigning interest in sailing/knitting/cats on Youtube, instead engage with people whom you already share an interest with. Is there a company rugby team or a charitable project you can join? Outside of work, everywhere from your gym class to the weekend Live Action Role Playing group are people who work in your industry. Connect about your shared interest first and you will find professional conversations flow naturally afterwards. Don’t be someone you’re not Networking isn’t just for confident social butterflies. Anyone can network – the key is reaching out to others in a way that feels comfortable for you. Susan Cain argues, in her phenomenal TED talk, that you don’t need to be an extrovert to succeed professionally. Cain’s advice for networking in particular is to seek out kindred spirits rather than make dozens of superficial connections. “One genuine new relationship is worth a fistful of business cards,” she says in her manifesto. If walking into a room full of strangers or attending late night drinks feels stressful for you – don’t do it. Suggest instead a one-to-one chat over a coffee or attend a workshop if this feels more comfortable for you. You will perform better when you are harnessing your natural abilities and approaching situations in a way that works for you. Start conversations on social media Social media is the one place where stalking people you don’t know is actually encouraged. Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook are great tools to become active in conversations with industry influencers and get noticed by organisations you care about. Follow companies you are interested in on LinkedIn and comment on their news and achievements to show engagement with their business. LinkedIn also allows you to connect with key decision makers such as HR managers. Use Twitter to cultivate your own industry following by sharing relevant links and commenting on news and trends. This will help establish your credibility and can get you the attention of potential employers. Retweet influencers and don’t be shy to mention them in your own tweets. Comment on business blogs and Facebook pages and offer valuable advice and insights that will get the attention of others. And remember the same rules for real world communication apply to social media – be genuine, kind and interested in others. Our two day flagship event, AAT Annual Conference, takes place this weekend and is devoted to your professional development and career growth. We bring together experts from the worlds of accountancy, business and finance to give you advice on everything from ethics to entrepreneurship. Senior business leaders will share their experience and practical advice on payroll, pensions, tax and more at over 20 sessions. However, it’s not only our speakers that makes the event special. It’s the energy and spirit that our members bring with them. Meet like-minded people, create new friends and be inspired by the stories of other students and members. Dale Rolfe is AAT's Content Manager.