It’s not what you know, it’s WHO you know. How many times have you heard this phrase? Despite what you think, it’s true. No matter if you are running your own business, work in a corporate office or for a small company, your success depends on who you know.
Networking opportunities are growing rapidly, and it is high time you join in and start getting out there sharing your mission with the world and seeing who you can help.
These are 6 reasons why networking is an important part of business social life and should be included in your calendar.
Get out there.
Today, when we all are connected wirelessly through the internet, we may never see people we work with every day (vendors, suppliers, clients). It is very important to get out there and meet face to face with as many people as possible. It is guaranteed that in the time of need they will think of you first because they know you personally. It brings your connection to the next level.
Other types of events bring under one roof people of the trade, business owners or another group united by a big idea. If you find time to show up, that means you care about the cause. More points to your career karma.
If you are dreading the idea of talking to strangers, realize that networking is set up differently. The atmosphere is chill and relaxing. Events are usually taking place after work and everyone is dropping off the official look, loosening up the ties and enjoying themselves in the great group of like-minded people. Isn’t that the most productive way to spend an evening?
Yes, you’ve read that right. It is typical to think that networking is about finding people that can help you make more money. Actually, it is quite the opposite. It is about finding who YOU can help (even more points to karma). Think of it as a circle of life. You help someone, and you will get help (customers, orders, job) from a source you have not even expected. By helping someone you get in to the network of people they know, so by default your own circle grows tremendously.
Refresh your ideas.
When you are constantly surrounded by same old colleagues and boil in the same pot day in and day out, your ideas get stagnant. The most important networking skill comes to the rescue here. Listening.
Listen to what others have to say. Ask questions about things in the industry that you are concern about; say, a new law that may influence the way your business is running, or a new rule that requires some adjustments. You may get useful insights you have not thought of before. There may be a solution, but you have not heard of it. Now a workplace (and a networking floor) becomes more and more diverse with people from other countries and of various backgrounds. That helps to get a different perspective on an issue.
Refresh your options.
Not only ideas get stagnant after working at the same place or on the same project. Your own career growth options expand considerably when you communicate with the right people. It may lead to an array of opportunities from getting assigned a new project to getting a new job. You must be on your best game when attending the events. You never know who may be looking. Everything matters from what you wear to what you say and do. The main rules of thumb require business casual attire (unless otherwise specified in the event description), avoiding topics like politics or religion, reasonable limit on alcohol and food.
Spread the word.
By attending networking events you make yourself and your company visible. The more people you meet the more people will find out about something cool that you do. Settle with the idea that networking is not a one-time thing (unfortunately or fortunately). It must be done regularly and consistently. It will take time before you really see the results. On the bright side, keep in mind that networking never really stops. You meet someone and tell them your compelling story. Once they leave the event floor, they may go and tell someone about you. You pretty much get access to their network too. Very soon you will realize that you connect people in your network. At the same time someone is doing it for you. Win-win!
Grow your self-esteem.
The best way to learn networking is to network. Sorry, no magic pill here. By doing it more often you will become better at it. The good thing is you realize that you are surrounded by people with similar goals in a comfortable setting and no one will react weird about you asking questions. A few tips here: listen more than you talk, but always have an interesting story to share. It can be a trade joke, an early-in-a-career incident or something along those lines that will help loosen up the tension, make people laugh and help them learn a thing or two about you as a person and a professional. We all have a story to share and by hearing others you will realize that you are a relevant player in the industry and bring value to the table (or to the bar).
Some people think that to network you have to join organizations like Business Network International BNI, pay thousands of dollars in membership and travel to another city to attend an event. Despite being well-known, this may not be the best way to start meeting people and getting connections. Many great options are right in your backyard. Check with the Department of Commerce in your city, or alumni club in your university as well as trade communities that arrange free or low cost gatherings in local restaurants and other venues. Look up “networking near me” online. You will be surprised how many easy ways to join the trend are there.
Now, when you have your reasons and all the means it takes to be successful at networking, just go out there and do it.
Credit: Anna Aguilar