‘Networking’ has such slimy, salesy connotations, doesn’t it? Now, to be honest that’s a little harsh to say, as most businesses rely on sales to succeed, so really, selling isn’t a bad thing. However, the problem is that a lot of people don’t work in sales or business development, so when people talk about networking, a lot of people might be turned off from the get-go.
So, this is an opportunity to make something very clear – networking isn’t just for salespeople.
However, in order to make the most of your network, you have to have a purpose. This can be a little tricky to figure out if it’s not immediately obvious what you can get out of it.
What should my networking purpose be?
Everyone, no matter what he or she does for a living, has a network. You will have colleagues, or peers, or friends, or old university acquaintances that you haven’t spoken to in years, and so on. Whether you’re aware of it or not, all of these these people make up your network. The difference for people with commercial objectives is that they will try to utilise their connections to help them achieve their goals. As a side note, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, but the crux is that those who do well don’t just tout for business opportunities at every turn (these types people are quickly found out and subsequently ignored!)
Whether you’re working on a specific project and you need answers to a problem, or you’re developing your career (which is something you should always be doing) and you need advice on how to take yourself to the next level, or whether you’re passionate about your hobby or craft and want to share and explore new thoughts and ideas, there will be value that other people can provide you with to help you achieve those goals, as well as value that you can bring to the table too.
This is where your networking purpose comes in – it is the reason to be doing what you’re doing.
Your purpose is exactly that – yours. Not only does that mean it’s unique to you, but you have to own it and take responsibility for it. No one else is going to satisfy your purpose for you – this fact will be the driving force behind all of your actions, and will hopefully keep you on track.
I’m still lost – I still don’t know what my networking purpose is…
You might not have anything that comes to mind right now, and that’s understandable. We’re all busy, and when you’re focusing on the here and now it can be tricky to see past your deadlines. This isn’t so much a roadblock, but it emphasises that it’s something you have to constantly remind yourself of – you won’t find success in the short term, and the results won’t be immediate. It will take time. Therefore, look past your email inbox or task list, and think about longer-term goals.
Here’s an example, and it’s a natural one for us being a recruitment consultancy, but think about your career – think about where you are now and where you want to be. There is a wealth of knowledge and experience out there, and lots of interesting people with the ideas and resources you can tap into – these are the people that can help you get there.
So what happens next? Well, that’s a story for another blog post…