Network & Make a Good Impression

photograph by Ivan Jones

Networking is an important way to promote your business or service, get jobs and build long term connections. Making a good impression and developing people skills are important skills for networking.

Making a good impression

First impressions are important in any industry, but particularly when you are selling a service or business idea. Through experience and practice you can build your confidence which is key to making a positive first impression. A confident tone, good body language and a positive expression will help in all situations, including interviews, business meetings and when working with clients.

Body language

Consider your body language in meetings and interviews to ensure you come across confident, positive and proactive.

Here are some simple tips: 

  • Sit or stand up straight;
  • Keep your arms and legs relaxed and try not to fidget;
  • Try not to cross your arms as this can seem defensive or closed;
  • Show that you’re interested and listening by occasionally nodding or responding appropriately;
  • Keep to your own personal space;
  • Indicate to someone using an open palm, rather than pointing a finger.

Networking

Build a picture of your network

Everyone has a community to build from, including friends and colleagues. Our guide to building a map of your community (available below) will help you identify your existing networks.

Make contact

If you don't know anyone working in your field of interest, look to see if there is someone helpful in your extended network who does. This could be your friends’ friends, your family’s friends, and your network of colleagues to see if you can reach relevant people through them.

It is useful to have contacts at various levels in organisations, who can help you in different ways.

Someone in their first job might give you useful hints based on their recent experience. A senior manager might give you current insights into their field. Middle managers can give you an idea of what opportunities exist and what they would look for in a new recruit.

Consider how you are going to meet your contacts; either by email, phone or face-to-face. The best way to engage someone is to meet them face-to-face.

Getting in contact

Here are some useful steps to making contact and setting up a meeting:

  1. Email first and arrange a phonecall to discuss whether they can meet in person. 
  2. If they agree to a phonecall, this will make the conversation easier in person, as you have something to refer back to.
  3. Prepare a brief introduction to explain who you are. 
  4. Keep introductions short, such as "Hello, my name is Jennie Cresswell and I’m a final year student in Graphic Design at LCC."
  5. Explain how you got their details and why you’ve chosen to contact them.
  6. Ask politely if they would have time to meet and suggest somewhere convenient for them.
  7. Prepare some questions for when you meet, such as what their job or industry is like. 

You could use a go-between - if the person you want to reach is a “warm” contact – someone you’re already connected to but who you haven’t met. Use your friend or colleague in common to help break the ice.

Meeting in person

  • Be prepared and always carry your business cards with you.
  • Bring examples of your work if appropriate.
  • Know your “elevator pitch”. If someone asks what you do, be prepared with a clear, short description of your business or idea, which includes identifying your unique selling proposition.
  • Use LinkedIn and other social media platforms to maintain conversations with your business contacts. 

Nurturing your network

Consider how to maintain and develop this new relationship once the initial meeting is over.

  • Send a short thank you card or email after your first meeting, outlining the points you thought were most useful.
  • Let your contact know if you have had productive meetings with any leads they have given you.
  • Let your contact know you have taken their advice and what the outcome was.
  • Invite them to a private view of your work, work-related event or business launch.
  • If you come across information or an event that you think they might be interested in, forward it to them and make the relationship reciprocal.

Remember, your time and efforts could take a while to pay off. Your contact may not have suitable work or opportunities for you or may be negotiating budgets or working on something separate. Be realistic and make practical contingency plans until the right opportunity presents itself.