Networking. A term that fills some with the excitement of possibility, some with a sense of absolute dread and others – probably the majority of us – with a combination of both feelings, the “I really don’t want to but I know I must” crowd.
The point stands though, that however much you might want to hide under the white tablecloths of a corporate breakfast, powerful and effective networking is now a business must for ALL who want to forge ahead. And it’s not simply about building up a Rolodex of business cards (or more accurately a smart phone full of virtual ones), a mass of LinkedIn contacts or a significant number of social media followers. It’s about a true quality meeting of minds and skill-sets, and skilfully parlaying said meetings into long-range successful relationships.
Networking is an absolute ‘has to happen’ for successful collaboration. The connections, skills, brain power and ideas which are openly discussed and shared through network creation in their turn create new opportunities, innovation and new solutions to existing problems. It is a domino effect – the way your initial networks interact provide a guideline for the subsequent or flow-on networks that spring up from these collaborations. They will only benefit from your experience and way of working together.
The reality is that in this incredibly fast-paced business and economic landscape we can no longer do it alone – in fact I don’t think we ever could, we just thought we could. How many times have you heard “It’s not what you know it’s who you know” – I read this week that in fact 70% of jobs are found this way!
Effective networking is a fundamental part of collaboration. The most innovative businesses and organisations are finding that collaboration and effective and powerful networking is giving them an edge. You only have to do the maths; I know one hundred people, they each know one hundred people… and the pyramid is built within an hour of someone mentioning they needed somewhere flash to store some sarcophagi. Six degrees of separation no more – with technology I think it’s more like 0.002 these days!
So how do you do it?
Building an effective network quite simply requires a conscious mind shift and attitude change. A shift from thinking about ME and what I will say, how interesting I am and what I can get from this conversation to thinking about WE. It’s about a change in attitude, approaching the meeting of each new person with openness – to listen, to learn, having a willingness to help and to contribute to their business thinking. It’s about making a personal commitment to deliver on any promises and, ultimately, to stay in touch.
There is no real hard ‘work’ in this. Perhaps it’s more fulfilling and in some ways ‘easier’ to think about networking in this way and as an essential part of future proofing your career and success.
Networking is about constantly exploring how you can contribute to another’s success, how you can weave connections, knowledge and insight to benefit them. It’s about having no expectation of anything in return. It’s about give, give, give – not take, take, take – and keeping in touch because you want to – not just when you want something.
It’s about togetherness, it’s about emotional collaboration; and essentially, it’s about commercial collaboration.
As Richard Branson said “Nobody can be successful alone.”
So why not try it together?