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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.

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