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Networking: A 'necessary evil'? I think not...

Many people believe that when looking for your next role, that it isn't what you know, but who you know.

With the market in a healthy position, there are now more contractors than ever seeking out their next lucrative project and unfortunately, sending your CV out sporadically to organisations and recruitment companies just isn't as dynamic and proactive as you might think.

For this blog, I am honing in on a subject that I have touched on in my previous blogs. I meet and speak regularly with contractors who are searching for their next opportunities and the first piece of advice that I give is to continually network.

This suggestion is met with a mixed response; quite frequently it is a slight look of terror, a sigh and a story of how they really hate networking. However every now and then, some people's eyes widen with delight as they proceed to tell me about how and where they have been networking and how beneficial it has been.

Fact - A large number of contract vacancies never even make it to market, never mind reaching the job boards-especially the juiciest ones. These are usually filled following recommendations and referrals from contractors currently working on client sites, or a contact that the hiring manager knows.
I have spoken with many 'career contractors' who have not had to apply for a single role in the last 10 years, because all of their contracts have been secured via ex-colleagues, or clients that they have impressed on previous projects.

Luckily, with technology these days, keeping in touch with your network has never been so easy. The key to online networking through the likes of LinkedIn is to keep your profile up to date, make sure your availability for your next contract is visible, join specialist 'groups' on LinkedIn and spend time seeking out ex-colleagues and employers.

You can now even upload your CV, personal profile, photo, blogs and contact details onto your profile page - making it easy for people to find out about you.

Face to face networking is a different ball game. Truth be told, most people aren't natural networkers and the thought of entering a room full of strangers and trying to make conversation hardly fills them with excitement. Networking takes time, persistence and a lot of practise, but when utilised well, can pay off in dividends.

Top Tips for successful networking:

  • It isn't just about meeting new people. Take time to connect and re-engage with previous colleagues and clients. Something as simple as a quick LinkedIn message to say hi and make them aware of your situation could be the key to your next contract

  • Don't just network when you are looking for your next contract, it has to be a consistent effort.

  • Other contractors aren't the enemy. Make sure you build a network of contractors and keep in touch with them. I know that if I contact a contractor for a role and they are unavailable, I always ask them for recommendations of people they know who would be suitable.

  • When it comes to networking events, don't just attend ones that are HR focused. HR Directors are not always the people who will be employing you. Attend business events and breakfasts in order to meet other key decision makers such as MD's, CEO's and commercial directors.

  • A great place to seek out local networking events is the

  • Go to events with clear goals in mind - such as getting 5 new contacts, to make sure that your networking is a productive use of time

  • Go it alone - whilst it might be comforting to go with a friend or colleague, you are likely to fall into the trap of speaking to them instead of putting yourself out there and meeting new people.

  • Make sure you follow up on new introductions, connect with them on LinkedIn or email them to thank them for their time - and stay in touch with them moving forward.

  • Think about what you are going to say to people, how you introduce yourself and talk about what you have to offer and make sure you practice it so that you feel more comfortable

The bottom line is, any networking is better than none at all. But in an increasingly competitive market place, can you really afford not to do it??

It does not pay to spend so much time developing your brand, service offering and improving your skills if you are then going to leave the most important element to chance.

If you would like to find out more about previous and future Harvey Nash HR networking events, click the link below

Kate Wass
Harvey Nash HR