Networking is a term that’s thrown around a lot nowadays, especially in combination with the word ‘social’.
It seems to form a central part of modern life, for keeping track of friends or promoting products, and almost every use in between. But in the business context, networking is more important than ever for those looking to go far in their careers. London, in particular, often sees pubs and bars crowded with city-based professionals looking to meet likeminded people in the same industry whose expertise or connection might be beneficial to another’s. Why is business networking so important, and what does it really involve?
Business networking is very specific, and a brief internet search turns out a few definitions that all paint a similar picture:
“Networking is a socioeconomic business activity by which business people and entrepreneurs meet to form business relationships and to recognize, create, or act upon business opportunities, share information and seek potential partners for ventures.” – Wikipedia
“Business networking is leveraging your business and personal connections to bring you a regular supply of new business”. – Entrepreur.com
“Creating a group of acquaintances and associates and keeping it active through regular communication for mutual benefit”. – Business dictionary.com
I define networking in this way: “a process of meeting and building long term business relationships with a wide range of professionals that you either do business with now or plan to at some point in the future”.
The Importance of Networking
Networking, when done efficiently, serves several important purposes in your business life:
Access to information
The deeper your pool of industry contacts, the more likely you are to be the first to hear important news that can be useful to your business, and better equipped to turn these leads into something valuable for your company. Staying on top of the industry grapevine prevents you from falling behind and from important information falling through the cracks.
Access to opportunities
Face-to-face dealings can produce all manner of opportunities that otherwise may not come up. If conversation turns towards an upcoming industry trend while chatting in a bar, is that same person going to feel compelled to go home and email these same details to everyone else they know? Unlikely. The potential difference these chances could make is immeasurable.
Access key expertise
Critique from an impartial third-party can play an important part in ensuring you’re going in the right direction. Businesspeople who don’t network can spend weeks, months or even years trying to obtain an industry connections on the phone and get nowhere. Meeting people in person and having that close relationship is far more likely to be fruitful.
Opportunity to meet likeminded people
The company of likeminded people chasing a goal similar to yours can be a very motivating presence when trying to make your business a success. Such relationships give you the opportunity to pool your resources and work in a mutually beneficial way, supporting each other through challenges and forming integral pillars of the business network.
To further expand and nourish your network, try to:
- Meet at least one new person a week – technological advances mean it doesn’t have to be in person to work well.
- Follow up every single contact you make and reinforce it. Arrange to go for a coffee and talk ideas as soon as is convenient for you both. Many invaluable contacts are lost due to lack of follow-up.
- Maintain your contacts. Once you’ve followed up a contact initially, don’t forget to keep checking back with them as you would a friend, or you risk the relationship slipping away.
- Regularly review your network. Are there any gaps, or needs going unserved that a new contact could potentially fill? If so, get back out there and find someone!
Mastering the art of networking is an essential skill if you want longevity in business. In the simplest of terms, it is a game of probability, and every time you make a new contact, you are stacking the odds further in your favour. So spend your effort on the right connections, the people who you know could bring potential value – it will pay off further down the road.
If you want to achieve success and longevity in business, then mastering the art of networking is imperative. It is all a game of probability, and by gaining a new industry contact who could bring information and opportunities your way, the odds are further in your favour. Now get out there and start connecting – you’ll be wondering why you hadn’t done it sooner.
About the Author:
Buchi Onwugbonu has more than 10 years’ experience in leadership roles for large corporates, SMEs and public service organisations. He has held senior roles in finance, consulting, operations and commercial, globally, working at companies including British Airways, Technicolor and Accenture. He is currently a Managing Director in the Telecoms and Technology sector. Buchi has a passion for helping people develop their careers and actively mentors aspiring leaders around the globe. He maintains the fundamental belief that you can take your career anywhere you want as long as you’re willing to put in the work and successfully changed his own career path on numerous occasions. You can find a copy of Jump! here: https://goo.gl/FhMMMO