How much social currency do you have? Who are the people on your professional and business contact list? You might need to review that list after reading this. Networking is simply interacting with others with the aim of developing professional or social contacts. It is the ability to build meaningful relationships on personal and professional basis.
Why is networking essential?
A lot of advantages have been associated with this skill but I will focus only on four – opportunities, connections, referrals and access.
Opportunities– Networking creates opportunities you never could have imagined. I met an executive at a certification training many years ago. We exchanged cards, became acquainted over the two weeks period of the program and discussed various business ideas at length. Needless to say, a year later he approached me to join his management team on a mutually beneficial alliance that lasted almost seven years.
Connections – Networking gives you useful connections and contacts. There is a popular saying you are five phone calls away from the person you need. This infers that you have the potential to reach the person you need by the right connection. Networking bridges that gap. It enables you create connections that can help you solve your business and personal problems. A childhood friend was able to start what has become a very successful business because she utilized her secondary school contact who is from a privileged background. The friend invested in the business and the rest is history.
Referrals – One of the greatest advantages of networking is referrals. Your contacts become contacts to others, increasing your scope of influence. Those referrals can also lead to others and the circle of value keeps expanding to your advantage. Major milestones in many people’s businesses have come through referrals. Worthy of note is the fact that a major determinant of referral continuity is performance.
Access – Networking enables you have access to people you may not naturally engage. A lot of people tend to gravitate towards a particular type but networking helps you mingle with people outside your comfort zone which enriches you. Pursuing opportunities to connect with other people of varying interest and perspective is critical for your growth and success.
Networking is a skill that can be learnt and improved upon. It takes effort and time but it pays off generously. It has the propensity to advance you both socially and financially. I conclude with this quote by Porter Gale “Your network is your net worth”.