For many of us, the thought of networking makes us want to run a mile as we envision crowded conference rooms filled with awkward small talk and one-sided conversations which inevitably end with the exchange of business cards that go in the bottom drawer.
However, the old adage holds true – it’s not what you know, it’s who you know and in today’s fast-paced corporate world, building and maintaining strong professional relationships is key to success.
For women in particular, networking can be a powerful tool that opens doors, creates opportunities, and fosters personal and professional growth.
In this blog we explore the benefits of networking, how to build an effective network and most importantly, how to maintain meaningful relationships.
The Benefits of Networking
Networking is more than just exchanging information; it is also a means of establishing long-term partnerships with reciprocal advantages. Here are some of the reasons why networking is beneficial.
- New Opportunities: Networking opens doors to career opportunities, mentorship and sponsorship, and collaborations that can advance your career.
- Knowledge Sharing: Interacting with individuals from various backgrounds and industries helps you extend your knowledge and viewpoint.
- Emotional Support: Professional relationships provide can provide emotional support during challenges. Your network is a source of strength, whether it is from a perspective of guidance, encouragement, or a sympathetic ear.
- Personal Growth: Networking requires you to venture beyond your comfort zone, which improves your communication, interpersonal, and leadership abilities.
How to Build Strong Professional Relationships
- Establish Clear Objectives: Begin by defining your networking goals. Are you looking for mentorship, new clients, or industry knowledge? Identifying your objectives will shape your interactions and provide focus.
- Attend Industry Events: Conferences, trade shows, and industry-specific events serve as excellent opportunities for networking. These occasions bring together professionals who share common interests, creating a space for meaningful connections.
- Utilise Social Media: In today’s digital era, social media platforms such as LinkedIn are invaluable for networking. Consistently update your profiles, connect with relevant professionals, and engage in meaningful discussions within your industry.
- Join Professional Associations: Many industries have dedicated associations and groups that offer networking opportunities. These organisations often host events, seminars, and webinars, providing a structured relationship-building environment.
- Provide Value: Effective networking goes beyond personal gains. Be open to providing assistance, sharing your expertise, or connecting others within your network whenever the opportunity arises. Reciprocity stands as a fundamental principle in prosperous networking.
- Follow-Up: Networking doesn’t end after the event or initial connection. Maintaining regular follow-ups, whether through emails, phone calls, or in-person meetings, is vital for nurturing and upholding relationships.
- Embrace Diversity: Widen your network by actively seeking individuals with varied backgrounds, experiences, and viewpoints. A diverse network can present novel insights and opportunities that might otherwise go unnoticed.
How to Maintain your Network
Once you have established your professional network, your efforts should not stop there. Maintaining your network involves several key principles.
- Be Consistent: Regularly engage with your network by sharing industry updates, congratulating them on their achievements, or simply ‘checking in’. This ongoing communication ensures that your network remains active and vibrant.
- Focus on Quality over Quantity: Focusing on building deeper relationships with key individuals who can significantly impact your career is more valuable than having many connections.
- Provide Help: Always be willing to assist your network, whether that involves making introductions or sharing valuable resources. By being a resource to others, you strengthen your position within the network and build a reputation as a valuable collaborator.
- Seek Feedback: Your network can provide valuable insights into your professional development and areas where improvement is needed. Constructive criticism should be viewed as an opportunity for growth, and by actively seeking feedback, you demonstrate your commitment to self-improvement and your dedication to maintaining strong and mutually beneficial connections.
Networking is more than a simple social activity; it is a strategic tool that can help women achieve both career and organisational goals. The power of networking is in its ability to unlock new opportunities and broaden perspectives. In a world where personal connections can be just as influential as knowledge; networking is an essential skill that women cannot ignore.