Polly McMaster is an MBA graduate of London Business School and chief executive of The Fold, an online fashion business specialising in professional clothing for women. Her five top tips on networking are:
1. Be creative - remember your network can be drawn from all areas of your life: your family, friends, school and university and all the jobs you might have had. Don’t be afraid to reach out to them in a professional manner – if they are friends they are even more likely to help you.
2. Know your industry - networking is fundamental part of growing your career, especially at senior levels. Once you become the one on the team responsible for generating business, you need to have a network to call on. It is therefore really important to go to events with your industry, make friends with your peers and if you have the chance to go to business school that will generate a step-change in your network.
3. Don’t be shy - when at a conference or networking event don’t hesitate about going up to people. Or if you are in a group and you see someone on their own, invite them to join. The best networking events can be those which have a focus or activity – that way you can meet new people more easily rather than just standing in a room and being forced to step into a new conversation.
4. Go solo - it is tempting to go to conferences or events with a friend or colleague. If you do that, make sure that you don’t just talk to each other through the event, it’s a comfortable fall back option but won’t encourage you to meet new people.
5. Dress for success - standing out with what you wear can be a great conversation starter. Go for a bright colour, bold necklace or interesting dress. You’ll be surprised how many “I love your dress/necklace/jacket” comments will then lead to a new contact.