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A Guide to Successful Networking in the UK Construction Industry with a Focus on the East Midlands

“Be authentic.  Share your passions and strengths.  Help other people feel good about themselves.  That is all you have to do to network.”

In this blog, I am going to reflect on networking: where we can network (in the East Midlands in particular where Maxim Recruitment HQ is), some tips for networking effectively and a recruiter’s take on networking.  If this blog encourages you to come out to one of the many brilliant networking opportunities there are in the Midlands, please be sure to find me and say hello!

Is networking your thing?

In the construction industry and in recruiting especially so, networking is important.  Very important. 

The professional network in the construction industry in the Midlands, for example is huge. Be it building or civil engineering, contractors or consultancies, the East Midlands or the West Midlands, permanent or contract, Trainee QS or Engineer or Senior Consultant in Delay; everyone has their place and everyone is welcomed to share the journey.

There is a friendly vibe to networking in the Leicestershire and East Midlands region.  Granted, we are all busy and don’t have time to reply or connect to every email or LinkedIn Inmail or Connection approach, but just reflect on how different it is when you are approached by or approach someone at a construction industry conference or networking event? It is those people within construction that make the effort to attend face to face construction networking events who will reap the benefit in terms of building a professional and personal network that has a lot of long term advantages including benefiting their career.

East Midlands Networking

Here are some of the organisations that hold regular networking events that are definitely worth a visit if you are in the East Midlands.

Procon

The Procon team run some fabulous networking events.  Informative and entertaining and a great way to be in the know in relation to the construction scene in Leicestershire and the Midlands.  Most recent was a breakfast networking event in none other than the King Power Stadium, home of the mighty Leicester City Football Club where we heard all about the topical subject of decarbonisation and Passivhaus creativity.  A great presentation was given by Couch Perry Wilkes and Willmott Dixon – and what better a view (see below) to have whilst eating a bacon buttie and rubbing shoulders with the great and the good of East Midlands construction!

PIPIN

The People in Property events operate in many of the major cities in the Midlands.  These are a fabulous way of networking over a few drinks at the end of a working day.  If you have your calendar organised well enough, you can hop from city to city and enjoy a PIPIN event in each one as they run the events on different nights in different places!

Property Face to Face

A brilliant lunchtime curry club for networking in the East Midlands.

RICS

The RICS Leicestershire and Rutland chapter sure know how to run a networking event.  An excellent event I attended recently was a guided tour of Friar’s Mill, a listed building that has been converted into upmarket workspace in Leicester city centre.  They put on an amazing curry buffet and cold beers after the tour.

Leicester Business Voice

The LBV team run interesting networking events in a wider context than just the construction industry, but many topics are relevant and worth a look.  There are likely to be similar events in other cities across the Midlands too.

East Midlands Expo

This was a fabulous event last year and I am looking forward to more of the same this year.  It was such a good day for connecting with client companies on a personal level and getting to know people in a relaxed yet very well-organised event. 

So is networking your thing?

Back to the art of networking.  It is nice to be nice, but the value of networking to all participants goes so much further than that.  Face to face interaction is crucial for humans to grow from knowing, to liking to trusting each other both personally and professionally.

It is well and good being the best in your office at writing emails, at speaking on the phone, at connecting on Linkedin; but those face to face interactions you have at network meetings – this is where the magic happens. 

Are you new to networking?  (Or could you use a refresher to remind you of how some other people in the room might be feeling?)

Some tips for how to make a good impression and start new relationships in a crowded construction business networking room:

  • Don’t apologise. You have as much right as anyone else to be there. You do not need to know everything about everyone and what they do – that is what you are there to find out!
  • Put on a happy face. This one is just obvious but it often doesn’t happen!
  • Time your entry. Don’t just walk up to a group of people chatting and butt in.  Listen for a while, get the gist of the conversation and then add a reflective comment or….
  • Pose a question! The best way to get someone talking is to ask their opinion.  This builds credibility (and let’s face it, panders to the ego in all of us).
  • Don’t just wait quietly for your turn to talk; actually listen to what others are saying.
  • Bring your business cards. And give them out.
  • Say their name. Ask someone’s name and then use it.  A person’s name is a sweet sound to their ears and it will make them feel comfortable with you and show that you are paying attention.
  • Be yourself. Introverts can’t pretend to be extroverts – don’t fake it.  Just be unapologetically yourself.
  • Bring your hobbies with you. When you talk about things you are passionate about, you light up and become more engaging.  You might just find someone else in the room has a shared love of photography, music or building castles out of Lego.  Or last night’s TV.
  • Find your wing man. There is likely to be at least one person in the room that you have at least met before.  Remind them that you have met already.  Then you can comfortably talk to whoever they are talking to.  If you are feeling confident, you can ask them to introduce you to some people they know that you would like to know.
  • Be generous. Interest in another person; even if it is just flattery or compliments, is a sign of generosity. It shows you are able to think about someone other than yourself. 
  • Be prepared. Know which sorts of companies are likely to be represented at a networking function.  Do your homework and find out who would be most interesting for you to talk to.  Sending out a LinkedIn Inmail before an event is a brilliant way to connect with people and gives you a ‘we meet at last’ starter when you actually meet face to face (when you recognise the photo in real life!). 
  • Follow up. If someone gives you their card – or if you remember their name and can look them up afterwards – then use it.    Thank them for the chat.  Make sure they remember you and that they have your details. Keep this up too; drop them a line every month or so just to touch base until they realise they can’t cope without you. 
  • Get rejected.   You will meet people who don’t want to talk to you or who have little interest in you and what you offer.  You will meet some rude people. You will find yourself talking to people you don’t like or who don’t like you.  That’s life.  When you feel a tension, remember you can always excuse yourself from a conversation and find someone else to talk to.  Their loss.
  • Accept risk. The person sitting next to you may be as nervous as you – or you may just be the answer to someone’s networking prayers.  Always remember that if you don’t ask you won’t get.  And what you have is ultimately going to be very worthwhile to someone else in that room.

This Blogger’s Experience

My networking skills are improving.  I am much more confident than I was a year ago and therefore much more myself – which is who people connect with.  I am also more cognizant of why everyone else is networking too.    I have solidified some of the connections from networking events and in doing so, have made long-term professional relationships with individual contacts and client companies. 

Meeting genuine people and making connections will open up avenues of opportunity for the future.  You may meet someone at an event and not quite ‘need’ them or their services immediately – but if they (and you) follow the tips above, you will definitely remember them and look them up when you need them.

You just don’t know who you might meet at a networking event – so polish those shoes and get out there.  And remember to say hello if you see me!

Katie Keenan
Recruitment Consultant & Candidate Resourcer
Maxim Recruitment UK Office
https://www.linkedin.com/in/katie-keenan-maxim/

 

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