Professional Networking can often be the bane of your working life. It’s more often than not a room full of strangers, all there for the principle reason of selling themselves. I think you have to be a remarkable sort of person to really enjoy that setting.
The exercise of professional networking is something that you will most likely need to do as part of your role at work. But it is likely that your training in professional networking will edge into your personal time or take a proportion of time away from your working day; resulting in the need to catch up with work tasks later on. However, professional networking can be hugely beneficial – even if it is not in your job description. Not only for the business as a whole, but for your personal development too. This article will discuss the four key benefits of professional networking and why you should start NOW.
My Personal Experience Of Professional Networking
I first found myself networking whilst in the position of being a Personal Assistant. My principal was a member of a group and couldn’t attend his weekly meeting. He asked if a small team would be able to go in his place. I sheepishly volunteered, hoping that someone else may be a better advocate. However, there I was two days later at 6:30am, arriving at what I thought were the gates of doom! I had been prepared by a colleague who had previously attended and knew what I wanted to say in my speech to the group.
“What’s the worst that can happen? It’ll all be over in 2 hours, Ellie” I told myself reassuringly as I entered.
Quite frankly, the first 5 minutes were probably worse than my naive self would have ever thought. A room full of intellectual professionals ‘networking’. Immediately I wanted to turn back around and run away. But I couldn’t, my boss was relying on me. The individuals in the room ended up being incredibly approachable and to my surprise, normal, probably seeing my nervousness and relating it back to their first day in that room. I did my speech, shaking with my paper in hand and with a slight quiver to my voice. But I did it, and boy did I feel good for it after.
Twelve months later and I now attend this meeting every Thursday, with the occasional week where I ask someone to go in my place and experience that exact same feeling I had a year ago.
Networking Is Necessary
Whatever position you’re in, whether you’re a business owner, support staff, trainee or manager, professional networking is necessary. Not only will it benefit you and your career but it will benefit your company and your business industry too. People connect with people, so if you learn to networking effectively, the world is your oyster.
Four Advantages of Professional Networking
Growth of business
Relying on your website, current business referrals and old contacts can cut you off from a much wider audience of potential clients. Networking can expose you to a variety of people who perhaps you wouldn’t otherwise have access to. And once you connect with one person, you become open to all of their contacts too. Don’t be afraid to ask for introductions, especially if they are like-minded individuals who you would be happy to do the same for. The more people who know about you, the more likely they will want to help you and the growth of your business. This will lead to more business and more business prospects for you in the long run.
Whether you go to a networking event focused solely on your industry, or with mixed professionals from other industries, there is so much learning to be done. My main advice when it comes to professional networking is to listen. Listen to their stories; from their adversity and hardships to their successes. Learn about areas of business that you are not familiar with, and get acquainted with knowledge from new sectors to expand your repertoire.
In my current professional networking group, I regularly meet with a variety of people from a variety of industries, learning a vast array of knowledge – from interest rates from a mortgage broker, to the various causes of back pain from a health practitioner. You may learn something that you didn’t know you needed – all of which could be valuable to you at some point!
Trusted book of contacts
You never know when you might have that client or friend who needs some urgent help with something and they turn to you for assistance. By taking part in professional networking, and meeting new people who you connect with, means you have a large and varied network of contacts to utilse.
An example of when I have experienced this is when a close contact of mine needed some urgent legal advice. I was able to provide the details for someone I had gained the trust and respect of, and they completed the work for my contact quickly and efficiently despite being a very busy lawyer. I wouldn’t have been able to assist without that relationship built through my professional networking.
Lastly, but most importantly; professional networking has massively developed my skills and character as a person. It has taken me out of my comfort zone, and pushed me to achieve beyond my own expectations and self imposed limits.
My confidence has grown. I am now able to connect and create relationships with all types of individuals and business professionals. I have refined my public speaking skills, and able to now stand and entertain in front of a large audience; not only about business but about myself as well. I can also think faster on my feet when asked questions about what I do, providing more detailed and thorough explanations.
Seek Out A Professional Networking Event That Suits You
Different groups suit different people and businesses. I’ve done the weekly meetings, lunches and one off evening events. But I would say, whatever you choose to do, make sure you follow up and show commitment. Your time is precious, make sure you use it efficiently and connect with the right people. If you go away from the event with a stack of business cards, then stay connected with those people, think of how not only they can help you, but how you can help them.
Business relationships work both ways and there is no place to be selfish. But, you must make sure that if you are investing in professional networking and other people, you are also reaping the rewards and benefits. And if you put the time and commitment in, I can assure you, you will.
About the Author
Ellie Knapp is a Talent Manager at Sidekicks, the leading London operations search firm.
A keen relationship builder who enjoys keeping up with market trends, Ellie is also a member of BNI and has developed a great network of contacts across a wide variety of industries. Ellie is also involved with our sister company, Top Five Percent, who recruit for the financial industry using their screening technology platform.