Speaking at the Women’s Executive Finance Forum (WEFF) on the topic of Social health, networks and being human in the machine age, Hobsbawm (pictured) said networking was naturally transactional as it centres around selling yourself, your services or your business.
However, she advised it was better to be counter-intuitive and allow for serendipity.
“Even though it is about who you know and who you would like to know, it’s also about being interested and interesting. Then – generally speaking – that’s how you build a network.”
Setting up a ‘social six’
When it comes to approaching new people, Hobsbawm said it was better to look at situations in groupings of six.
This includes categorising social groups into six areas, such as family and friends, wider family and friends, professional priorities, professional social groups, people to reconnect with and people on your wishlist to engage.
She said to then allocate six hours, days, weeks or months to focus on building a relationship with them.
She said: “Networks are at the core of what people do. Networks are what connect and link together people’s ideas.
“Research people and organisations and understand them to figure out why they would want to build a relationship with you.”
Also speaking on the panel was Maria Harris, director of Digital Cat Consultancy, who said as an introvert being in a room with 30 people did not come naturally to her.
She found setting boundaries made networking more comfortable.
Harris said: “You have to be selfish with your time and your energy. Sometimes I get inundated with emails because my address is on my LinkedIn.
“Sometimes I’ll say I’ve had a really busy week so I’m sorry it’s taken me ages to get back to you. Don’t be afraid to do that.”
Making real connections
Harris added that it was also easier to network around one’s personal brand and passions to overcome the “inauthenticity” seen in the relationships typically formed in the financial sector that tend to be built at events and ceremonies.
She said: “Be consistent about your messaging, choose the things you want to talk about and find the people in network circles who are important to engage with on those topics.
“At an awards ceremony there’ll be a thousand people and you’ll be working the room and saying hello and spending time as if you know those people.
“But if you came away from it, you probably only know a dozen of them really well and those are the ones you’ll have a proper connection with,” she added.
Christopher Barrat, author and networking consultant, said it sometimes helped to influence potential contacts indirectly as there is no guarantee someone will respond to an invitation to meet up, especially if they are particularly popular in the sector.
He explained an indirect influence as getting in touch with someone who influences the person you wish to connect with to gain leverage.
He added: “If you create that pull within yourself, then when you are saying ‘I’ve been meaning to get in touch with you and suggest a coffee call with you’, their response will be ‘yes, I’ve heard of you, yes, I will’.