In today’s fast-moving world we are encouraged to network and network more, but where do we start and more importantly what exactly is networking? In short, why should we network and how does it work?
Networking is basically communicating with another person. However, networking is also a unique tool that equips you to take conversations to another level with benefits. There are endless benefits to be won when you network and the simplest way to describe networking is that it has a “mutual win-win for all parties based on building relationships”. Networking benefits come from competitive research, learning about an industry, helping your job hunting, finding a supplier, introductions to key decision makers, sourcing new employees and developing your business. Most important throughout is the building of new relationships, which is the primary reason to network in the first place.
In business “people buy people” and everything begins and ends with the relationships you have built over time. Not being built overnight, these relationships should be nurtured and not rushed. Just like fruit takes time to ripen, new relationships take time to grow. It can even be a long term process. The more effort you invest in networking the greater the results.
When sharing information with new connections, remember to preserve the balance of giving and getting. Just as we have two ears and one mouth, when networking we should listen twice as much as we speak.
It is essential to accept that networking is a long term process. It is advisable therefore to network as often as you can so that you are continuously making new connections to grow your network base. You will then be visible and frequently noticed, which is an excellent way to raise your profile.
It is amazing how many businesses in our struggling economic climate just do not find the time to network. This, however, is the best time to network because simply by being seen networking, you show people that you are still in business. Imagine if you needed to market your company and enhance your skills but were not prepared to be present at a networking event for business and career development? Who else is going to do this for you?
An understanding of networking can take some time to develop. To be successful at any particular networking event you should think about what you want to achieve by attending it before you even leave your office or home. Having a clear direction will make networking easier for you because you will know what you want the outcome to be. We all network for different reasons so create goals that are relevant to you and fit into your business, career, job role or personal life.
There is a myth that networking success is based on how many business cards you can distribute at an event. In fact, the path to success in networking often really only starts the next day after your conversation or meeting because an integral part of that path is the follow-up. Ask yourself, “Will I make the effort to re-connect with new connections? Always answer “Yes” and achieve this by email, phone or in a meeting for coffee. Networking is a two-way street, for it to work, you have to invest time to network initially then make the effort to maintain and keep in touch with your new connections.
Whether you are a director, business owner, job seeker, charity, small or medium enterprise (SME), or investor, it is easy to forget that networking is not just about actual networking events. You can network everywhere and anywhere – from a hotel lobby, museum or art gallery to a restaurant. When you continue to network beyond a networking event it is additionally advantageous because your new contact will always remember where they met you. It will also show what an enthusiastic networker you really are.
Bella Rareworld, Managing Director of BellaNeworking Events, provides strategic networking solutions by managing every stage of a company’s networking life cycle to fit their marketing strategy.
You can also follow her on twitter at https://www.twitter.com/BellaNetworking