When it was first suggested to me that I should be networking with other businesses in order to grow my business, I probably had the same reaction as you. I didn’t want to do it. But let me explain to you how important networking is, and perhaps – like me – you will change your mind about the value it brings to you.
As Brene Brown said,
“Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.”
My primary goal in a networking meeting is to be the person I want to meet.
Once your business is off the ground, there comes a point at which you are comfortable, and begin thinking about expansion.
You may be wanting to grow your business, and whilst networking may seem intimidating to you, it’s a goldmine for professional progression.
What is networking?
Networking is the act of growing and maintaining a list of contacts that will help you further your career (with the expectation that you also help out where you can). I had a preconceived idea about a back room somewhere with a secret handshake and cliques that would be hard to break into. I have been very pleasantly surprised. This doesn’t mean that you’re mindlessly growing your contact list with everyone you meet – but it does mean to think about the potential for interactions to be valuable throughout time
Who is your ‘network’?
Your network is not just those contacts gathered through professional events, your network can be made with;
- Professors/fellow students
- Professionals in your field
- Clients or customers
- Personal acquaintances
- People you see at the gym/church/community centres
Why would you network?
Networking allows you to hear about and access potential opportunities that may have eluded you on your own. Having a network can allow you to access adjacent fields to you, roles above your own, and can give you valuable insight into keys to success and advancement. It only takes a single one of your contacts to get you in a room that you couldn’t have gotten into anyway.
It’s important to network effectively, however. Don’t waste time networking in a way that isn’t bringing value to those around you.
“Networking is an enrichment program, not an entitlement program.”
— Susan RoAne
How do you network well?
Network with the right people
– make sure you’re reaching out to people who can help you specifically with what you need. If you are interested in a different field – try connecting with mutuals within that field. If you are interested in a different department at work – try connecting with those in that department. You never know who may be able to help you at a later date, so connect with people in a range of places.
Proactivity is queen
– it is important to cultivate your network consistently, so that you maintain your connections. If you message people out of the blue, only when you need something, it seems unpleasant and manipulative. Even just sending short emails to check in, remembering updates they gave you and checking in, are great ways to show you care even if you’re not in complete constant contact.
You get what you give
– it’s important to know that networking isn’t a one way street. You must be willing to help people out and know what benefit you can bring, as well as vica versa. This is why selecting network contacts is important.
Utilise your resources
– professional networks are increasingly easier to maintain now that we have technology. Whether that be LinkedIn or other sites, it’s easy to send follow up and check-in messages.
Seek out networking events
– there are plenty of networking events happening in most cities, by Googling or asking around you can find them. Attending both in-company events and community events allows you to be exposed to a great amount of contacts.
What can networking with people do for you?
Forbes summarises the following:
– you never stop learning, and there is so much to be gained from socialising and listening to others. Your value within your career will come down to your pool of knowledge, and there is a limitless supply out there.
Giving you publicity
– networking and sharing your own ideas, in a widespread manner, is a great way to be noticed. Standing out in expertise gives you a great leverage professionally.
– when you’re being noticed, it’s easier to expand professionally. You never know what connection could be the one that changes your life.
Expanding your self-belief
– when networking, your view of what’s possible professionally expands. It may seem like you’ve met your peak within your company, but meeting others and learning about your industry may actually educate you on what is possible for yourself.
Improving your aspirations
– we all have goals, but over time we may feel disconnected from them. Even a single interaction can transform your outlook and inspire you why. These things grow and change with you, and networking can enhance that.
– networking is a face to face way of getting updated information on industry trends and position openings.
– we all experience business hurdles. When you’re able to confide in those who have more business experiences they can help with advice or linking you with others who can support you.
– people who are serious about career advancement are able to achieve so due to the status grew in networking. Your connections are powerful and give you influence.
– Networking is key to growing your career, but it’s also key to self-growth. Expanding contacts and regularly interacting with industry peers promotes an increase in self-esteem. This confidence is extremely useful on its own.
– additional to the professional gains, networking allows you to create long-lasting friendships.
“Success isn’t about how much money you make; it’s about the difference you make in people’s lives.” — Michelle Obama
With this in mind my perspective on networking changed. My love for coaching is about giving value to others, and this is the attitude I take with me to networking. I have found that my belief in the fulfillment of giving is true in networking.
Find the right Networking Group
There are a lot of networking groups out there and finding the right group for you is the key to success. Most groups will allow you to attend a meeting for free so you get a sense of the type of people that are members, the way the meetings run, and if it is a format you subscribe to.
Networking groups are groups that have been started by someone, run through councils, chambers of commerce, capital cities and national organisations.
We advocate networking in Fempire and provide the opportunity for our members to network with each other at our events and in our private facebook group. We have made it a part of every training to practice telling everyone about your business (a heartfelt elevator pitch).
If you are interested in becoming a part of the Fempire sisterhood then reach out to find out how.