by Heather White

Why you should network – the benefits

Though the pressure is on from companies who cite networking as being a key competency, the only person who can motivate you to network is you. They can ‘cite away’, but that is not going to really get you going. But I can tell you what will: your career and performance will ultimately give you the motivation you need.

This section is to help you find your key motivation, something that will sustain you to take action, enjoy the process and ultimately experience results/success.

Networking works, and it works better for learning how to be good at it, BUT it works in unpredictable ways.

Whatever you are looking for, you can be sure you will find it through networking but you can also be 100% sure that you will have no idea which event, telephone call, conversation or contact is going to lead you to this place.

However consciously we manage our networking it is all speculative and accepting that lack of structure is a key lesson.

Simon Sperryns, ex CEO, London Chamber of Commerce and Industry

The benefits for you

This skill-set will work for you when you have a compelling reason to network, rather than being told by your boss. You won’t sustain any efforts if you network because you have been told to. Having met thousands of people at different stages of experience and willingness, I know that willingness, driven by personal desire, is what makes it work.

One thing that we have found through experience to work is that, if you are not a natural at networking, you may well feel a lot happier if there is a task or goal attached to the activity. So, at this precise moment, what do you need? What is important for you right now? What might be important for you over the next six months?

  • Being in the know is important.
  • Gaining recognition from your peer group and senior management is important.
  • Meeting certain people across the company is important.
  • Understanding what the whole business does is useful.
  • Being involved with special projects is a useful experience.
  • Finding your next job or your next role is important.
  • Helping your contacts/clients/colleagues and so on is important.
  • Developing your skills to the next level is important.
  • You don’t ever want to be made redundant again.
  • You don’t ever want to be overlooked again.
  • You don’t ever want to miss out again.
  • To improve people’s perception of you is important.

And what else is important for you? When you have all the answers, write your motivations down and stick them up in your office or at home so you can see them. Look at them and confirm that these reasons will motivate you and keep you active.

Now go back to the menu on the left and look up what you need to know next. When you are armed with a compelling reason, networking is easy. Once you gain some results, your motivation will continue to grow.

Networking is a tool that will help you in many ways.

  • It will help you to market yourself when looking for your next role, to let people know you are an expert and they can come to you for help.
  • You want to make sure that you are included in specific projects and not overlooked; to achieve this, you need to be fully informed of what is happening inside your company and how you fit into that matrix.
  • Your connections should include having a sponsor, a mentor or coach, or role models; it should also include knowing the best recruitment agencies and having an updated CV. You should support all of this with up-to-the-minute technical skills and with honed soft skills.
  • If you are a home worker (see Networking for home workers), working in a global organisation or one with multiple sites, very busy senior executives need you to keep them informed of your growing experiences and talents.

In short, self marketing is a vital skill. And yes, not everyone is comfortable with self marketing. (See Techniques for shy or quiet types.)

The benefits for the company

Your company needs to market itself to its markets, stake holders, shareholders, new and existing employees and so on. It will take a blended mix of approaches to reach its market. Typically, this would include brochures, web sites, e-zines, articles, logos, radio, TV and events.

  • Networking deepens the understanding of the company’s contacts/connections, because it is a personal form of marketing. It opens up and finds hidden opportunities.
  • Networking suits any business that is focused on consultative selling, trusted advisors, key account management programmes, account-based marketing or similar approaches – any area where it is very important to know what is going on inside a client.
  • Even in today’s buying society, people still buy from people first. If people are to buy from you because they trust you, you need to be well connected and profiled.
Key tip

If you are still not convinced, see above and make a list of reasons why you should be networking. It could make the difference between getting stuck and disillusioned and having an enjoyable, rewarding and successful career – plus making some genuine, like-minded friends along the way.