Networking 101 - An Introduction
Most times, when I introduce the need for networking to a new career group, I literally feel their energy leave the room. That energy is replaced with 'tick, tick, tick' - until finally someone pipes up with a variant of ‘I hate networking’. And with that, noise and energy returns and the pile on begins with all the reasons they don’t ‘do’ networking:
- Networking is so fake
- No-one returns your call / they can't/ won't help
- My network is small; I don't know anyone
- I feel uncomfortable / I don’t like asking people for a help
Seriously, the response is that predictable – when they're out of practice, most people really (really) don’t like the thought of having to network.
Deep down, I think most people know that they need, and will benefit from, accessing their network, they just don't feel confident tapping into it. Over the coming weeks, I’ll share some information which I hope helps you develop your confidence in (re) building your networks.
But let me open it up with why building and nurturing your professional network supports your career, it will:
- assist you with research, information, new thinking as well as an avenue for constructive feedback
- provide you with introductions to new people
- offer guidance on professional development
- present career opportunities
- support you when you need it
A meaningful network is mutual – and only as strong as your willingness to offer as well as seek help. Here is how your network helps other people:
- You will assist people as part of their research, information, new thinking and feedback hub
- You will provide introductions to other people in your network
- You will provide guidance on professional development
- You will present career opportunities
- You will support when they need it
Networks are built on reciprocity – while you are not necessarily going to be best friends with people in your network, they do rely on trust, and the promise that at any time either party contact the other to either offer or ask for, assistance.
Ask yourself this: are you happy and willing to support people in your network? Can you recall a time you’ve done this in the last six months? What level of engagement have you had with people outside of your immediate work circle recently?
And here’s the flip, are you prepared to ask your network for help? Can you recall a time when you’ve asked your network for help in the last six months?
Importantly, your network is not a standard level of engagement with everyone. I have a scale of connections with my network, influencing my readiness to call them, and also the amount of time I'm prepared to invest in helping them.
As I said, my intention here is to provide an overview of a multi-faceted organism. In the coming weeks, look out for information about what a network is (and isn't); knowing how to build and nurture a one; developing the confidence to tap into it, and finally, the mutual obligations that networking entails.