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Illustration of a person handing out business cards
Illustration of a person handing out business cards
Illustration by Gracie Dahl

Networking is an important way to promote your business or service, get jobs and build long term connections.

First impressions are important in any industry, particularly when you are a business owner, freelancer or are looking for work. If you find the thought of networking online or in person daunting, the best thing to do is practice and plan ahead. This will help to build your confidence, which is key to making a positive first impression.

Our networking tips will help you to go into networking situations feeling prepared:

Networking at events

Networking events can be a great way to build your professional contacts but can also feel intimidating. It’s important to remember that everyone in the room is open to meeting new contacts. A confident tone, good body language and a positive expression will make you seem more approachable.

Be prepared

  • If you meet somebody influential you may only have one chance to impress them, so write and rehearse your ‘elevator pitch’ in advance of the event. Have a clear, short and interesting description of your business or idea prepared. It’s worth testing it out on your friends and family to make sure it hits the right note.
  • Prepare 3 questions in advance that you can use to initiate conversations.
  • Always carry your business cards/other promotional materials with you and give them out to anyone you talk to.
  • If you meet somebody interesting - ask them for their business card (aim to collect 5 or more during the event).
  • Bring examples of your work if it’s appropriate (this could be a digital portfolio on a phone/iPad).

Body language

Being mindful of your body language will help to ensure that you come across as confident, positive and proactive.

Here are some simple tips:

  • Sitting or standing up straight will help you to feel and look confident.
  • Smiling will make you more approachable.
  • Try not to cross your arms as this can seem defensive or closed.
  • Listen carefully to what people say and respond appropriately.

Following up

  • If you meet new contacts at a networking event, make sure you follow-up with them quickly.
  • If people gave you their business card, follow up via email e.g. I really enjoyed our conversation at the UAL networking event on Tuesday. I thought I’d follow up to send you a link to the project I was telling you about…
  • Also connect with people you meet online as this enables you to keep in touch. LinkedIn is a good platform for this as it’s centred around employment, but you could also use other social media platforms.

Networking online

You can also build your professional network by approaching prospective employers, collaborators and clients online. The key is to make sure that your messages are personalised and clear.

LinkedIn is a great tool for seeking out relevant contacts at companies you’d like to work with. You can request to ‘Connect’ with people easily through LinkedIn but personalise your intro message to increase your chances of getting a response e.g. I saw your exhibition and wanted to connect with you as I am a curator…

The Dots is an online professional network especially for creative industry professionals. You can build a profile, follow and message other people, showcase your projects, and apply for jobs through the platform.

Social media platforms such as Instagram and Twitter are good ways to showcase your projects, seek out new work and collaborators, and build a community for your brand. Social media is also a great way to network and approach people in an informal way. Just remember to keep your personal and professional accounts separate (unless your personal life is central to your brand).

If you want to work with a particular company, establish who the most relevant contact is by researching their website or company LinkedIn profile. Once you know who the best contact is you can contact them by email. Draft personalised emails for everyone you make contact with and make sure you have something relevant to say; if you’re looking for work you might want to link to your online portfolio.

Useful resources

  • Business Growth by Finn Weaver
    Business Growth by Finn Weaver
    Marketing and promoting yourself online

    An online presence is a cost-effective way to promote your skills, services, and business. Read our tips on how to promote yourself online.

  • A student working at a laptop
    Student working on a laptop. Photo by Ana Escobar
    Learn new skills online  

    UAL students can access 16,000+ LinkedIn courses for free. Subjects include: UX, marketing, networking, Adobe CS and more…

  • Illustration of women networking
    Illustration by Nia Hefe Filiogianni
    Women+ in Leadership

    Join a network of likeminded students, graduates and industry to celebrate female+ successes and feel empowered to break through the glass ceiling.

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