“The main benefit from working with Challenge Consulting is the guarantee of finding the best possible person for the position required.”

Wendy Tunbridge – Uniting
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Stephen Crowe

Managing Director

Ph: 02 8042 8907

[email protected]


Does the idea of approaching colleagues you’ve never mingled with before make you nervous? Not sure how to ask the right questions and give the right answers? Chances are, you’re not alone. Even for the most confident people, networking can be a daunting prospect. It’s even more terrifying when you’re an introvert. When you’re shy, taking that first step into the unknown can be difficult.

However, networking is one of the most effective and least expensive methods to raise your profile and advance your career. When done right, you’ll find that it’s all about communicating passions and connecting with others who share those passions. It’s about listening, figuring out what others need and connecting them with people you think can help, without any designs for personal gain. The most successful networkers build genuine relationships and give more than they receive. They go beyond thinking, “What’s in it for me?” to ask “How can I help?”

To follow this approach, here are five ways to network successfully and have fun doing it:



Start small

Start with people you know, then expand to their acquaintances and finally strangers after the process becomes second nature. It’s not necessarily a bad idea to dive into the deep end and immerse yourself in a room full of people you don’t know, but networking is one of those skills that you will need for life so don’t hesitate to take the time to ease yourself into it.


Stop apologising

Drop the habit of apologising needlessly! It is easy to apologise when asking for help if you see networking as an imposition and not as exercise in relationship building. You are not asking anyone to do you a favour, so believe that you are worth their time. It could demonstrate your lack of professionalism and confidence, so don’t have to apologize for asking for help. Don’t have to apologize for wanting to learn more about the individual with whom you’re networking. One day you may be able to help them out.


Have a plan

The best networkers are always prepared and have a plan. Grab a notebook and bring it with you while networking to refer to some pointers or to take some notes.

Since every person has value, it’s essential that you know what yours is. Take the time to clarify what talents, strengths, skill sets and connections you can bring to the table. Map out what you want to talk about, particularly how you may be able to help other people, either now or in the future. If you’re attending an event specifically to network your way to a new job, have your personal pitch ready, anticipating questions you may be asked, such as why you’re looking for a new job, and have clear, concise answers at the ready.

If you’re afraid you’ll freeze up or get tongue-tied in a social setting, think of ice-breaker questions you can ask people you meet. You can try:

-Commenting on your surroundings – you’re all in the same location so use it to your advantage. Ask if they’ve ever been here before and it could lead to finding where they work and what they do. You could also talk about the food that’s provided!

-Humour – Everyone loves a laugh and it’s a great way to move past any initial awkwardness and kick-start a fun conversation. Make a silly joke and see where it goes from there. You could either be remembered as the one with the bad jokes or the good jokes, either way you’ll be remembered.

-Finding people who look a little lost or lonely – these people might just be like you and are unsure of how to approach new people. Walk on over and introduce yourself – they might just be waiting for someone to come and talk to them. They would appreciate the gesture and would be more likely to open up to you for a chat.

-Compliment people – Point out an accessory someone could be wearing like their watch or necklace. People typically enjoy others noticing their efforts to look good, and these interactions are a friendly way to start a conversation.


Relate, don’t promote

Forget your personal agenda. Instead, make it your goal to be open, friendly and honest, and to forge connections between people who may be able to help each other. Generosity is an attractive quality and it’s something special that people will remember about you. Good professional networking isn’t about selling. Instead, it’s about building relationships and creating friendships. At business networking events and conferences, ask lots of questions and most importantly, listen rather than talk too much. Find common ground and connect, and remember what’s being said. This will help build your credibility when you follow up and people see that you’ve taken the time and effort to remember them and your conversation.


Follow Up Respectfully

If you told someone you’d get in touch with them, do it and reaffirm your intent to assist in any way you can. After an initial meeting, follow up with your contacts with a ‘thank you and nice to connect’ message. Based on your conversation, send them an article or other information they might find helpful. Make it a priority to follow up promptly so you’re fresh in their mind, and invite them to connect on LinkedIn or a similar industry networking platform. These simple methods can be highly effective for building your connections, ensuring any future approach is more warmly received.

If you promised to introduce someone to a person you know, take the time to do it. Everyone is busy these days with jobs, families, events, commitments — even so, it takes no more than a minute to shoot off an email to introduce two people you want to connect. They can take it from there and do the work — just enjoy being the bridge. Little things like that mean a lot to people and just one introduction can end up changing someone’s life for the better.



Apparently, yes. 

Well, at least that’s what the 60% majority of respondents to last week’s online poll – “Are you more productive in a noisy or quiet (office) environment?” – wish. One poll respondent stated: “I definitely get more work done when I get to work before everyone else arrives / work back after everyone has left. I am easily distracted.” 

Personally, I prefer to work in an environment with a bit of a hum, a bit of a vibe happening. It’s energising. You feel as though you’re not the only one actually doing anything. I do not wish to work in a tomb-like setting. Another poll respondent commented: “Working in a silent office can sometimes be a tad uncomfortable. You suddenly become aware of how much noise you are making, especially if you are having a conversation on the phone. You can feel very aware of what you are saying and are conscious that everyone is listening in. This can then distract you from what you are actually supposed to be talking about!” Yet another said: “The work place is essentially a collaborative team environment with people of all levels of seniority and skill sets. Together they are working to achieve a common goal in delivering a successful outcome for the company.” 

However, it does depend on what you’re actually attempting to get done, and the level and type of noise around you.

If you’re working on something that requires focus, attention to detail, and concentration, a quiet atmosphere is probably more suitable. I know when I was attending to our end-of-month reporting last week in the absence of our managing director (thanks very much, boss), I retreated to her office and shrieked “Don’t speak to me! I am doing sums!” whenever a colleague approached. In this age of open plan offices, it is wonderful when there are also spaces provided for employees to retreat to when uninterrupted quiet is desired: “Open plan offices may save money and increase collaboration to a certain extent but if you need to concentrate on a task, it is a completely unsatisfactory environment.” 

In an opinion piece published on the Dynamic Business website, “How to increase productivity in an open plan office”, Dr Jim Taylor had this to say: “In theory, people are more accessible, so that problems can be discussed and decisions can be made more easily.  This, in theory, should improve productivity. There is a downside however. These are noisy, busy places where there is no such thing as a private conversation. Humans value privacy, especially when discussing matters requiring sensitivity. This is virtually impossible in a busy open plan situation.” 

Plus, it’s also important to make sure you’re not the office noise pest. “Try business etiquette expert Tracey Hodgkins’s tips:

– Don’t approach colleagues while they’re on the phone. This happens too often, she says.

– Don’t speak at them when they’re concentrating – regaining concentration is time consuming.

– Try making an appointment for a conversation.” [Source]

Finally, Challenge Consulting’s Organisational Psychologist Narelle Hess directed me to a very interesting study that examined if noise and music are more distracting to introverts at work. “Many workplaces allow the playing of radio or recorded music during working hours, providing a chance to personalise and brighten the working climate. But how does music affect our ability to perform tasks at work? And does this depend on the kind of person we are?” In a nutshell, “higher extraversion eliminated the penalty from noise.” Interesting … 

How do you like your desk: Streamlined Order or Organised Chaos? Tell us in our latest online poll and stay tuned for the results in next week’s ChallengeBlog post …


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