Networking is a valuable and necessary part of one’s professional development. But it is a long-term investment strategy – not a get-rich-quick scheme. It requires significant investments of time, effort, and patience, and it requires the right approach. The benefits are real and significant, but don’t expect an immediate payout.
What do I mean by this? Business is about people. Any salesperson will tell you that people buy from people, but all of business is really about working effectively with others – clients, co-workers, managers, subordinates (those are the most important ones when it comes time to look for a job and you need a helping hand – they have long memories).
Success in your career is largely determined not just by what you accomplish, but also by how well you demonstrate to others what you can accomplish. Never forget that in life, you never know who knows who: so always be extremely careful to make the right impression with everyone so don’t burn any bridges. Guaranteed, it will come back to haunt you.
Before you can demonstrate your ability, you must first connect with those who will give you the opportunity. So, business is really all about effectively connecting with people.
When you network, don’t think of yourself as ‘siloed’ – you are part of a community. By contributing freely, without the expectation of immediate reward, you can build your reputation as a valuable and valued member of that community. If, on the other other hand, you behave as if you expect immediate personal benefit and gratification, you will be viewed as opportunistic and mercenary. This isn’t to say that there won’t be short-term benefits – there will be. For starters, your interpersonal and communications skills will immediately start to improve. But your focus should be longer-term, and your attitude should be one of giving, rather than taking.
These days, “business networking events” are a great way to meet and connect with other professionals whose focus matches or overlaps your own. These events aren’t just about finding potential clients, suppliers or mentors. Exchanging information with people you might not otherwise meet help you expose yourself and answer questions about your profession, and give you valuable insight into what is newest and most exciting in your chosen field. Most importantly, you will have the opportunity to raise your own profile within your profession. Becoming known as a person who freely shares ideas and information means people will begin to seek you out when they have questions of their own.
The bottom line? You can learn a great deal about your industry, and you can make contacts which will serve you well both now and down the road. From a career perspective, networking is invaluable. Start now and take the time to do it every day.
I’ll be posting more about networking and your career over the next little while.
Over and out