Careers advice: Expanding your professional network through social events

22 November 2018

Alumni Careers Manager, Caroline Egan, discusses how to turn the often dreaded work festive party into a positive occasion and raise your professional profile.

The festive season will shortly be upon us once more, and with it the oft-dreaded ‘office Christmas party.' At the same time of year, articles frequently appear on the topic of ‘how not to sabotage your career’ at this event, which probably makes most readers worry even more.

Maybe this year, you can make this an event you approach with expectation rather than trepidation…

Be strategic

So whilst most of us go and catch up only with existing friends at the office party, be strategic and think about three people who you’d really like to speak with. Seek them out reasonably early on - ideally when they’re on their own or in a small open group that looks approachable to newcomers. At the very least, you can then use this ‘friendly chat’ as the opportunity to demonstrate your enthusiasm for your role; gather information to help with internal job applications such as latest developments/hot topics/ business needs within your organisation and sector which you haven’t heard about (and hopefully impress decision makers at the same time).

Cultivate your new network

If you aren’t already connected on LinkedIn, make sure you do this the next day to ‘cement’ the new connection. Share blogs, business books, news, events, and articles you think may interest your new contacts (the same goes for all your contacts in fact!). Show an interest in their updates on LinkedIn, reply to their comments on your posts, and generally remain engaged with them.

Not convinced of the value of internal networking?  

Think about it from your employer’s point of view – they want a ‘safe’ pair of hands for a role, and it’s always going to be safer for them to recruit a ‘known quantity’ than a complete unknown. By taking every opportunity to meet influencers and senior people in your firm, and also investing in relationships with key support staff (who you may find yourself managing one day), you’re ‘future-proofing’ your career.

Feel uncomfortable about networking?

If you don’t enjoy it, a social scenario may also help you feel more relaxed about it. Here are 4 more ideas which may even help you to learn to enjoy networking:

  1. Change your perspective - focus on being a good conversationalist and listener, and on what you’re learning from them.
  2. Identify common interests. Showing an interest in others’ lives and jobs, asking for advice, and expressing your opinion on issues can lead to a greater feeling of authenticity.
  3. Think broadly about what you can ‘give’ – this doesn’t have to be information, expertise or resources – it can just be gratitude – the opportunity to make someone feel like a mentor.
  4. Find a higher, more selfless purpose in the interaction – i.e. you’re representing your Business School, your nationality, your profession, your gender.