We Can All Benefit from Networking
Building relationships increases professional knowledge and skillsets.
Everyone is busy. It seems ironic that as we have gained access to technology intended to make our jobs easier, we seem to spend more time either at work, working from home or just thinking about the things we have to do at work. Being so busy, it is hard to find time to do the things we know we should be doing, such as attending seminars/conferences/trade shows, reading trade journals or even taking classes to enhance our skills. Another thing we should be making time for is networking. Unfortunately, many of us only think about networking when we are contemplating a change in jobs, or when we have actually left a job and need to find a new one. Yet, building relationships over time via networking can be one of the most important things we can do to increase our knowledge and skillsets, and it is something we should be doing regularly. It is amazing what we can discover when we take the time to reach out to others. Just a few of networking’s inherent benefits include:
- Finding alternative solutions to common problems. We often think of problems as unique to our own businesses. As such, we may struggle to find workable solutions to fit our needs. Reaching out to others opens our eyes to the fact that our problems may not be unique after all. In all likelihood, others have faced similar problems and found solutions that worked for them. Networking offers the chance to discover one or more proven solutions that we may not have considered on our own.
- Helping others by sharing some of the good things we have done. Most of us like to be asked for ideas, suggestion and opinions. We take pride in knowing that others value what we have to offer. Sharing how we have addressed certain issues may prove to be helpful to others. At the same time, our organization will likely gain respect from those we help. This well-earned respect may even lead to unexpected business opportunities for us in the future.
- Confirming that things we are doing actually do make sense. When isolated in our day-to-day world of sell-plan-make-check-ship (what the book “The Four Disciplines of Execution” calls the “whirlwind”), it is easy to second-guess decisions made and actions taken. Some may even put off decisions for fear of the unknown. Discussion with those in our network can provide alternative points of view and insight on whether we are on the right track.
- Meeting our needs for continuous learning. Learning is a key component of personal and organizational growth. Although some of this learning can stem from within our organizations, a great deal more can come from beyond our walls. Learning about what others have been doing can inspire us to do more. We can learn as much from the failures of others as we can from their successes. Failures can point out lessons learned, while successes validate what can be accomplished.
- Providing new perspectives. Groupthink is a phenomenon that can occur in any organization. It generally surfaces when the same people interact on a regular basis for an extended period of time. In such an environment, there is little appetite for changing the status quo as decisions become very predictable due to limited differences of opinion within the group. The business seems to run on autopilot with slow or even no growth prospects. Networking can be a source of “out-of-the-box” concepts that reduce the risk of groupthink and focus the organization toward better prospects for growth.
Networking is one of the few free sources of information from which we can learn things that offer the potential to make our organizations better. Building our network is easy; in fact, it likely already exists in the form of friends, relatives, classmates, former coworkers, and even vendors and customers (past and present). Connecting or reconnecting with this network of talent may require some initial effort. Yet once in place, our network’s value will quickly exceed any upfront effort if we are willing to invest the time to listen, learn and share.