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A few weeks ago the world’s first Professor of Networking and the founder of Editorial Intelligence, Julia Hobsbawm, talked about the art of traditional networking on BBC Radio 4.

Hobsbawm says that networking is all “about learning and storing up transportable knowledge for the longer term”, and that it is “an essential and hugely productive engine of the economy, which is really central to economic productivity.”

She believes that networking should be a core skill, like driving and computer literacy; “In a time of recession, people need their soft skills honed as well as their hard skills. Networking is poised to become the most valuable soft skill on a CV,”

But while Hobsbawm, who is the first visiting Professor in Networking at Cass Business School in London, recognises that online networking on social media sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook is booming. She also explains that we as a country and as individuals are forgetting to network face-to-face, and that we should go back to a more traditional and lateral approach to the skill; “Trust is the biggest single asset a person can have and face-to-face contact provides this better than any other form of engagement.”

So how can we do that?

Young people today are so used to virtual networking, that many are no longer comfortable with speaking to potential business contacts face to face, which could lead to graduates and prospective job-hunters could be missing out on their dream jobs.

MBE awarded Tim Campbell (winner of The Apprentice) says that, “Networking is definitely a skill that can be learnt. Americans see it as an essential part of business thanks to sororities and fraternities at universities where life-long connections are made. That’s an alien concept for most people that come out of our British education system.”

Campbell admits that networking takes hard work, and understands that not everyone has the same ‘social capital’ when it comes to knowing the right people; “It’s a delicate balance between endeavour and connections. I’m all for networking for getting a job whether that’s mentioning a name or through a friend of a friend.”

He also says that “People need to have more access to networks. Social mobility relies on good networks.”

Even Cliff Oswick, Professor in Organisation Theory at Cass Business School, says that in order to acquire successful, relevant and important contacts, you need to network well. He says that networking often doesn’t get positive results because it is carried out in an insincere, superficial and meaningless way with people who share no similarities whatsoever. The key is to be authentic and genuine and make contacts with the people you want to be in contact with, and with people that you have similar passions and interests with. It will really pay off in the long run.

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Elephant Creative’s Top 5 Tips for Successful Networking:

  1. Remember: Connecting is a Mutual Exchange – Both parties have to work at keeping the connection going.
  2. Know WHO you WANT to connect with – Have an idea of why you would like to connect with certain people, and know what you want when you choose to connect.
  3. “If you don’t ask, you don’t get!” – Don’t be afraid to ask contacts in certain sectors/businesses for help in advertising/marketing/accounting etc. if your company needs it. This will make you seem approachable to their companies and you can hopefully return the favour in the future, forming a strong and prospective bond. And don’t be afraid to solve others’ problems.
  4. Try and make contacts through someone you already know – If you have a friend or a family member who is in a company or currently knows someone in a business which is similar to yours, and which who could do with a helping hand from your sector, go to social gatherings with them or try and get your name dropped.
  5. Make contacts with people you have similar interests with – When making new contacts, try and find out as much about their interests as possible before handing over your business card. The life-long connections are the ones that are based on trust and mutual passions outside of the business industry. When you first meet a potential new contact, ask about their hobbies first, and think about if you would like to meet up with them for drinks or coffee outside of the office sector. This will help to enhance your traditional networking skills, talking face-to-face about your companies and personal life, and will gain you a reliable and trustworthy contact in the long-term, and maybe even a good friend!

This article was written by Associate Tara Behan.