Top tips for successful networking

In the midst of this competitive job market, a good contacts book has never been more valuable to advance your career.

We've covered how to use social media to find a new job, but it is also important to get out of the office and network face-to-face. So how can you meet the people that matter?%VIRTUAL-SkimlinksPromo%

Personal network
Before you start searching for fresh contacts, take a look at who you already know, advises Michael Gentle, head of consumer marketing at "Acquaintances may not seem very useful, but dig a little deeper and you may hit the jackpot. Perhaps a friend's parent runs a business in an interesting sector, or your grandmother's bingo buddy is married to a successful entrepreneur? Your perfect career may be in your grasp."

Mutually beneficial
Successful contacts work both ways and your relationship needs to be mutually beneficial as no one likes to feel used or taken advantage of. "Simply knowing someone will rarely be enough to get you your dream job," says Gentle. "It is imperative to nurture these relationships. Treat your connections respectfully; get to know them; keep in touch regularly and try to help them out when you can."

Get out there
The more active you are in your business community, the more likely you are to discover opportunities. "Take the creative industry in a city like Manchester as a fine example," says Simon Swan, co-founder of "There is a really buzzing social and networking scene, with lots of networkers, connectors, thought leaders and freelancers.

"That kind of environment breeds collaboration and the sharing of information and ideas. Placing yourself firmly within it, by attending events and engaging with that community on social media, is a great way to establish a reputation locally."

Choose carefully
A new opportunity may be your ultimate goal, but attend conferences and events with an open mind and treat everyone you meet with respect. "Remember, it is not just about collecting thousands of business cards, it's about making unique relationships and building trust," explains Gentle. "Bond with those who will be most useful, find common interests, listen and make an impression - then collect their card and follow up with them."

Ask for help
When you have built a strong contact and know them well enough to ask for help, it is best to be clear and direct. "If you have invested time and effort into the relationship, your contact should have no hesitation in helping you out," says Gentle. "After all, if they recommend you successfully for a job or internship, it will reflect well on them and could even increase their personal brand in the long run."
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