What’s the point of networking? Identifying outcomes and goals

16th May 2023

Networking can seem a daunting prospect, especially at the start of your career. However, going in with some clear goals in mind can lend some much needed confidence.

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The idea of walking into a room and striking up conversations with strangers is uncomfortable for many people. Fortunately, modern networking offers many more options.  

We live in a hyper-connected society, and we are getting better and better at creating and curating our connections in support of career and personal goals.  

When summoning the courage to make an initial connection, it can help to think about what outcome you’d like to get from the interaction. What do you want to happen after you’ve connected?

This might feel a little Machiavellian, but it shouldn’t. The chances are the people you connect with are looking for something you can provide, and you don’t need to be seeking instant career advancement from every conversation.

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You might just be looking for a kindred spirit to grab a coffee with the next time you’re in the neighbourhood, or someone to meet up with at conferences.

The great thing is that our industry has come a long way from the more rigid structures and formality of the past.

There’s growing recognition that the rapid changes in society, technology, and cultural expectations mean experienced professionals have a lot to learn from career entrants, making them very open to making connections.

So, as you embark on your networking odyssey, take a moment to think about what you’re looking to achieve:

Your goal: Social interactions and friendship

Why it’s helpful: It seems obvious, but making friends within the industry makes it a nicer place to be. The more people you can get on smiling terms with, the more enjoyable you’ll find future events. By expanding

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your social horizons beyond your immediate colleagues, you’ll also get more experience of life in other firms.

This can give you a valuable perspective on which aspects of working life are common across the industry, and which employers offer something a little different.  

Where to start: Any CITMA event will include plenty of time for casual conversations over coffee, so make sure you don’t give in to temptation to check your emails – get out there and chat!

At some of our events, networking is the main draw – our upcoming summer reception is the perfect place to meet people from across the industry.

If you prefer something a little more structured and want to do some good at the same time, you’ll find like-minded people taking up our event-related volunteering opportunities.

From the digital side, IP Futures is a LinkedIn group supporting all early-stage IP careers professionals.

Your goal: Mentoring and advice

Why it’s helpful: An experienced perspective can be invaluable as you navigate the early stages of your career.

You may be fortunate to have a mentoring network available to you within your firm, but if you are working for a small organisation you may need to look for outside support.

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Even if you do have an in-house mentor, an external viewpoint is often very useful. So how do you go about seeking a mentor?

Where to start: The first thing to note is that mentors usually find the experience very rewarding. During a CITMA panel session on mentoring Chartered Trade mark Attorney and member of the CITMA council Carol Nyahasha said: “I have been both mentor and mentee and it is a priceless relationship”.

So, when you are looking for mentorship, you shouldn’t feel as though it is likely to be a one-way relationship.

Many mentorships begin organically following informal conversations, so it is good to have this prospect in mind when you’re talking to people at events.

A good digital alternative is to engage with the various LinkedIn groups within the sector such as Trademark IP Professionals, and the INTA group. Another option is to attend webinars in areas that interest you and connect with the speakers after the session.

If you have a specific question relating to their presentation this can make a good opening for further dialogue and advice-seeking.

The Careers in Ideas mentoring hub is another port of call when seeking a mentor. Organised by IP Inclusive, it seeks to link mentors and mentees to improve access to careers in the sector.

Your goal: Allyship – receiving and offering

Why it’s helpful: When you can be confident and comfortable being your whole, authentic self at work, you will enjoy it a lot more - and supporting others to do the same is equally rewarding.

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If you are a member or ally of a particular group, opportunities to connect with those who may have a similar experience to your own can be very helpful when trying to navigate being yourself in the workplace.

Where to start: IP Inclusive aims to foster a more equal, diverse, inclusive industry and runs a range of community support networks. Whether you are a member of an ethnic minority, disabled, LGBTQ+, in a non-traditional family, or an ally of all these groups, you’ll find support at IP Inclusive.

Many firms also have diversity, equity, and inclusion interest groups you can get involved with.

Embrace the serendipity!

These are a few of the outcomes and goals that you can aim to achieve with your networking efforts. But, ultimately, you really need to embrace the potential for serendipity – you simply never know where a connection might lead.

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Samantha Crellin, Sales and Training Specialist at IP portfolio platform WebTMS, is a CITMA Paralegal who has made a successful transition to join an industry technology vendor. She credits being open to connections and opportunities for her change of direction, saying: “We work in a relatively small industry where just being aware of others can help you shape your career.

“The people you’re training with, working with, or meeting with may go in many different directions; keeping in touch is always worthwhile and can lead in directions you hadn’t even thought of.”

Most importantly, when you are making connections aim to be natural, authentic, and open. Be prepared to offer as much as you hope to receive, and who knows where the next conversation might take you!