Don’t like networking? Do it anyway.
It’s easy enough for us to make excuses about why we don’t want to network… Common ones include:
- “I’m not interested in talking to complete strangers.”
- “Social media has taken the place of in-person networking.”
- “Networking requires too much time away from the office.”
- “It takes too long to develop relationships following networking events.”
Research unequivocally proves that the effort and investment required with networking pays dividends in the future. In fact, in a recent infographic published by greatbusinessschools.org, 72% of those surveyed say they were influenced by a look and a handshake when it came to choosing business partners.
Here’s why you should absolutely find the time to network in-person:
Looking for new business? You need to get out there and find it. And while you’re there, make sure to make the most out of your time investment by remaining focused on building strategic relationships. A recent article in Entrepreneur states that it’s critical to make the best use of time at networking events by connecting with a few people that may lead to mutually beneficial referral relationships. Ivan Misner, Founder and Chief Visionary Officer at BNI reminds us that, “Networking isn’t about closing business deals or meeting hordes of new people; it’s about developing relationships in which future business can be closed.” Misner’s advice also includes limiting the number of contacts you meet at each event by focusing on the contacts most relevant to your business, and also refraining from spending too much time talking to one person — invest a few minutes in each person and be sure to ask for a business card and last, write notes on the backs of the business cards you’ve collected to use as a point of reference when following up with the contacts.
At one point or another, most of us will need career advice and it’s an important quality of a successful person to be able to ask for it! From a seasoned professional to a person fresh out of college, you should never be afraid to rely on colleagues and friends within your industry to help solve problems or move a project to the next level when you’re feeling “stuck”. Business Insider’s 7 Career Benefits of a Strong Network tells us that, “Building and maintaining a network of industry contacts is one simple way to ensure a continued level of guidance throughout your career.” Further, “The need for guidance is highly understated. Calling on your professional contacts in times of needs might take some getting used to, but always remember it’s a two-way street. Open chains of communication with your network will allow you to provide a mutually beneficial setting for the daily encounters of a successful career.” By attending networking events, you’ll be sure to build a professional network of problem solvers and collaborators to draw from the in the future when you need it most.
Humans are creatures of habit. We enjoy routine and predictability and often get into a groove of going to work, going home, fulfilling personal obligations, etc. It’s always a good idea to force yourself to get to know new people as a way of “brushing up” on your ability to make conversation and connect socially with people whom you have professional interests in common. According to the World Economic Forum, high-paying, difficult-to-automate jobs increasingly require social skills. Nearly all job growth since 1980, has been in occupations that are relatively social-skill intensive. Social skills are important in the modern labor market because computers are still very poor at simulating human interaction. Human interaction in the workplace involves team production, with workers playing off of each other’s strengths and adapting flexibly to changing circumstances. This type of interaction is at the heart of the human advantage over machines, which is why it’s continually important to build your social skills in the workplace.
Networking isn’t just about what we can get, it’s also about what we can give back to those just starting out in their careers. Attending networking events with a goal of giving back can be just as rewarding and important as attending with the intention of personal gain. In a narrative published in the Huffington Post by Alex Lyman, Master’s student at Western New England University, mentoring reminds us that the lessons we teach are a good refresher for ourselves, it forces us to step back and gain perspective, shows us that mentees can teach mentors something too. It also teaches us that mentorship grows leadership capacity. Clearly a mentoring relationship is first and foremost to benefit the mentee, however according to Alex, “The mentor can also gain in experience, confidence and knowledge.” Mentoring can be equally as beneficial as it is fulfilling, as long as you take the time to consider your own lessons as you take the journey into mentorship.
We’ve all heard the expression several times – it’s who you know not what you know. While this isn’t exclusively how people get jobs, several studies indicate the powerful effects of networking when looking for that next opportunity. According to Lou Adler, CEO and founder of The Adler Group, 85% of all jobs are filled via networking, based on a recent study he conducted of 3,000 individuals self-identified as staff and managers. For those who are less active job searchers, the results determined that networking trumps directly applying for a job by a factor of 3:1. For the more passive candidates, the ratio of networking to applying is a startling 7:1. Given this data, it’s evident that getting a job today requires networking.
Don’t worry… You’re not alone. In a survey of students by the Shyness Research Institute at Indiana University Southeast, 84%of participants said they were shy at some point in their life, 43%said they were presently shy, and just 1%said they had never been shy.
Many people don’t want to network because they feel alone in their shyness, but you are clearly among good friends in the shyness department! Believe in the common good of people at networking events, and just know that the vast majority of the population has at one point felt shy in their life.
Experts agree that you should make it a priority for your career or your business to attend as many networking events as possible. Be sure to push yourself out of your comfort zone, make the time worthwhile by having as many quality conversations as possible and create a solid follow-up plan to stay connected to everyone you meet. Get started today by researching and registering for 2017 networking events and opportunities!
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