Networking can be time consuming and draining, but it is critical to the success of your career that you build a strong business network. By spending some of your time networking, you can absorb a lot of valuable information from your colleagues and mentors, all while spreading the word about your business. It’s a goldmine for opportunities, so why do so many professionals struggle with it?
Networking is not going away, but the good news is that there are some great strategies out there to help you build your business network and start to enjoy the process. When you see your business grow and the seemingly effortless referrals come through, establishing connections will become second nature. It’s important understand the impact of business networking and identify what is holding you back before you attend an event.
The Power of Business Networks
One of the main purposes of business networking is to build long term, mutually beneficial, relationships – after all, it’s not always what you know, but who you know. According to one study, 85% of jobs are filled through networking – this means that even if you’re not looking for a job, but instead looking to grow your business, you can count on the credibility of your business contacts and trust they will refer a quality employee.
You can also stay up to date on trends within your industry and enhance your creative mind. When two likeminded people share their ideas and intellect, it can result in creative breakthroughs. By putting yourself out there and opening the door to new opportunities, you’re building a strong foundation for your business network. Why else would 79% of professionals agree that regular interaction with professional networks leads to new opportunities and career progression?
What Holds You Back
Some people find it more difficult than others to network, especially face-to-face networking. One suggested remedy for this is shifting your mindset. Instead of viewing business networking as a one-sided benefit, try to understand that all parties benefit. Nobody is networking for charity.
Staying consistent is also key. This does not mean that you need to carve out time for face-to-face networking because even a simply reaching out via LinkedIn is good practice. If you stay consistent with building your network, and are proactive, you’ll find that you have a lot more solutions than you do questions or complications.
Another reason some professionals hold back from networking is because of their sales pitch. Networking is not about attracting investors, it’s about building relationships, so your sales pitch may come across as inauthentic. You know what you value and the mission of your business, focus on that and keep it informal. Be sure to have an articulate response if you are asked specifically about a product or service but keep it light and let conversation flow naturally.
Tips for Networking
Networking does not always present itself as a formal face-to-face event, connections are happening digitally, all of the time. To make building your business network a little easier, here are some tips:
- Do it everywhere – Don’t limit yourself to formal events, interact with your acquaintances, you never know the connections or wisdom they may have.
- Carry Business Cards – Carry business cards with you everywhere so you’re always ready to trade information. Design a business card that you’d be proud to hand out.
- Listen & Smile – If you’re uncomfortable with networking, you may try and overcompensate by hijacking the conversation. Make eye contact, listen, and smile – you’ll make the speaker feel special and you’ll get your turn.
- Join a Business Networking Group – Whatever industry you’re in, there’s a good chance that there’s a group for that. Request admission to free groups on social media or get a membership.
The only way to develop your career or grow your business is to get out of your comfort zone and network. There is no instant gratification, but instead, long term benefits from all the seeds you’ve planted and relationships you’ve nurtured. Start by networking in your own workplace just to get the hang of it, but it is important to understand just how powerful networking is and to stop holding yourself back from amazing opportunities.