Humans were created to connect with one another.
To form genuine, inclusive relationships that bring complex value to our lives through the conversations and experiences they inhabit – networks and communities of likeminded individuals built on the exchange of information, support, and ideas.
Networking is an arm of relationship building that’s centred on this idea of ‘connection’. While in the past often perceived as overtly ‘sales-y’, networking in today’s age encourages social connection through open, accessible ways to meet new people, discuss ideas, and share your knowledge and skillset with likeminded peers. Mutually beneficial yet authentically so, one of the most important aspects of networking is understanding and finding the value in it when you do not need anything in return. Instead, networking should be something continuously pursued; a natural route of development that encourages you to step outside of your comfort zone and start conversations with a broad range of people (not just the ‘right’ people!) – regardless of a need or motive.
No matter where you are in the life-cycle of a business, there are opportunities to be found in every corner of the room, and the power to do so lies in your willingness to receive them as they’re presented. Networking should never be treated like a chore, but rather an opportunity to learn, engage, and build genuine relationships with people from varied industries and expertise. Limiting yourself to only connecting with people you believe can do something for you will not only reduce the amount of people you’re ultimately exposed to, but at the same time limit the number of people exposed to you.
In going beyond the ‘stiff handshake and business card exchange’ ways of old, it’s been refreshing to witness the discourse surrounding networking events change alongside their landscapes. In becoming far less formal, opportunities to network are now more intuitive, more authentic, more gender inclusive, and more accessible than ever. There are social media networking groups that ignite rich conversation and support for busy professionals in the digital space, industry-led workshops and ideas-dominated events.
No matter which industry you’re in or how far into your career you are, the positive impacts of networking are far reaching. Not only in terms of developing your confidence, but also for sharpening your communication skills and challenging yourself to continually question, learn, and grow – both as an individual and as a professional.
Because humans can never really stop learning, can we? Or connecting.
Over the past few years I’ve started to visualise networking as a physical ‘net’ at sea, trawling the ocean floor for pearls and picking up various little shells along the way. While the peals may represent a particular goal (such as finding a mentor or gaining a new client), the conversations and learnings you gather along the way are like the shells that line your journey – slightly smaller and less shiny, but just as important to the bigger picture.
Have you found value in networking? Can you attribute any of your positive relationships to networking? I’d love to know your thoughts.