Do you dread networking? Here’s why it’s time to change your perspective.
We get it, networking isn’t at the top of everyone’s to-do list. It can be time-consuming, downright awkward on occasion, and depending on your personality, incredibly draining. When your calendar is already overcrowded with work appointments and family commitments, the last thing you want to do is make small talk with strangers.
However, there’s no denying the power a strong professional network can have towards your success. When it’s done well, networking will not only help you grow your business, but it will give you a competitive edge over the competition… There’s no better client than one from a recommendation, that trust is already in place!
Here’s why networking is important to your business’ success, and what you can do to improve your networking skills enabling you to thrive.
What is networking?
Networking isn’t merely the exchange of business cards with others and it’s certainly not about begging for favours. Networking is about establishing and nurturing long-term, mutually beneficial relationships with the people you meet, whether you’re joining an early morning group for some breakfast and a chat or simply waiting in line of a coffee in Costa. You don’t have to attend every networking expo all around the country in order to be a successful networker. In fact, if you take your eyes off your phones when you’re out in public, you’ll see that networking opportunities are all around you every day.
Why networking is important to your success:
Experts agree that the most connected people are often the most successful, that age old saying really is true…
"It’s not what you know, it’s who you know"
When you invest in your relationships, professional and personal it can pay you back in dividends throughout the course of your business adventures. Networking will help you develop and improve your skills, stay on top of the latest trends, meet prospective mentors, business partners, suppliers and clients, as well as gain access to the necessary resources that will boost your brand exposure.
How to become an effective networker
"First, you have to be visible in the community. You have to get our there and connect with people. It’s not called net-sitting or net-eating. It’s called networking. You have to work at it"
Ivan Misner, founder and chairman of the business networking organisation BNI
The importance of networking cannot be overstated. But how can you improve your networking skills to ensure you’re networking efficiently and effectively?
While you don't need to know exactly what you expect to get out of each networking opportunity, it's important to head into each activity with a goal. For example, you may attend an event with the goal of connecting with three new people in your industry or gain a new valued supplier.
It's a simple task, yet many professionals neglect this critical step in the networking process. The time you invested in speaking with someone new won't benefit your business if you fail to follow up afterward. While you don't need to send a long, heartfelt message immediately after meeting someone new, you should send a LinkedIn connection request with a personalised message to remind them who you are sooner rather than later.
Look for opportunities to provide value to those in your network before you ask for help. The more you invest in your relationships, the more you'll learn about your new connections and the easier it will be to offer assistance - and get it in return! The value you provide isn't limited to your industry; this could be anything from a holiday recommendation from personal experience, to an introduction to someone within your personal network which they’d like to connect with.
Final thoughts on the importance of networking
It’s never too early or too late to invest in your network. The best way to improve your networking skills is to put yourself out there and give it a try.
"I'm convinced that about half of what separates successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance."
Steve Jobs, former CEO and co-founder of Apple Inc