How do you network effectively?

Neil Williams, a former Royal Marines officer and now CEO of recruitment agency Crucial Group Ltd, shares his networking top tips.

When I decided to leave the Royal Marines I had no plan other than doing ‘something in business’. Networking was vital in helping me identify and pursue a new career.

At its heart, networking is just a conversation, and the military trains you to be an effective communicator. It gives you the opportunity to meet successful and interesting people, learn from their experiences and find opportunities.

The hardest aspect of networking is self-promotion, which can feel awkward but most people respond positively. There is a fine line between confidence and arrogance, but you will stay the right side if you genuinely want to learn and develop.

Find people you want to meet on LinkedIn, so create a decent profile and join relevant groups. Send messages asking people to meet for coffee to discuss their career or a topic in which they have expertise. You will often be unsure where networking leads, but you always learn something from every meeting. Even if you realise that you do not want to pursue that career, this will save you time and effort.

With networking, the approach is more important than the end result. Remember networking is not about you, so when you meet listen for 80% and talk 20%. Fortunately, many people like talking about their achievements! If someone offers an opportunity grab it until you know it is for you or not.

When I started networking I couldn’t predict the outcome, but it ultimately led to an exciting new career. Start networking now and see where it leads.

Ask the Expert
You can read Neil’s answer, as well as those of other industry insiders, in the latest issue of Pathfinder Magazine – the monthly magazine for Service leavers. The OA edits a regular article called ‘Ask the Expert’, where a career question is answered by a panel of experts on the topic discussed. Read the full article.

Improve your networking
On Tuesday 29th May at 18:30, Sophia Koniarska, OA Director of Programmes and Partnerships, is running a webinar on networking. The session will explore the importance of networking, and how to do so effectively. Register now.