I am, of course, talking about networking. There was a time when being called “a networker” conjured up images of a smooth operator sashaying from one to the other potential benefactor, deftly dispensing business cards while prolonging a handshake just long enough to ensure those on the receiving end appreciate the privilege.
These days networking is the name of the game and lone rangers will find it increasingly difficult to stay on top (of news, opportunities, and of mind). Virgin Founder, Sir Richard Branson, believes, “Business is all about personal contact. No matter how heavy your workload is… everyone can and should be a networker.” I figure he would know.
People network for different reasons: recruiters advise jobseekers to network and “get out there”; others see it as their chance to gauge what the competition is up to; some go for the thrill of mingling with like-minded people; and some, if truth be told, just go for the food… and if the discussion is good, it’s a plus.
When business people network, it seems to be mostly those in leadership positions or those responsible for business development and their reasons are fairly straightforward: Keep a look-out for growth opportunities.
Whatever the reason, it appears that most people leave a networking event (face-to-face or online) having gained something.
And this got me thinking about the value of networking outside of one’s familiar environment – no matter where you are in the organisational hierarchy. Team work is fantastic and crucial, but how does one ensure thinking does not become stale or predictable? I don’t want to take the simile as far as the results of inbreeding among the aristocracy, but… well, there it is.
Even if your workplace offers in-house developmental courses, there is something about meeting up with others from different backgrounds, opinions and levels of experience that just adds that additional oomph! to one’s own thinking and professional growth.
If your thinking is as big as the people with whom you spend time – who are you allowing into your sphere of influence and how are you sharing your brilliant thoughts or hard-earned experience?
Join a group or start a group, but get some dynamic cross-pollination (i.e. “Influence or inspiration between or among diverse elements”) of ideas going to inspire new thinking and keep workplace discussions robust: Network to increase your net value.
While networking in this sense was clearly not the intention, Motswako rapper JR certainly gets it right when he says, “Make the circle bigger.”