Networking is a lot more than simply meeting people or growing your connections on LinkedIn. It’s a means of establishing long-term, mutually beneficial partnerships and developing an avenue to exchange ideas and useful information. Networking has molded over the years from more ‘traditional’ forms such as joining clubs or attending industry events, to now joining online platforms and social channels which have brought the opportunity to connect with people from all over the world. Both in-person and online networking have impressive benefits. When given the opportunity to network in person, whether it be a chance encounter or an event, it's a super strong and impactful way to get to know someone or groups of people while sharing a similar experience. These in-person exchanges demonstrate people’s sincere interest in a topic while allowing them to show off their skills while everyone can become familiar with each other’s personalities and sense of professionalism. Human connection happens with face-to-face interactions which accelerates relationship building at a much faster pace than introductions online, therefore in-person networking will likely not go out of style, even though online networking has truly revolutionized the space. The advantages of online networking have been proven with the rapid rise of users on places like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. As previously mentioned, the ability to contact anyone at any time and schedule a meeting without the inconvenience of leaving your home is what has literally changed the world as we know it. Online networking also provides the opportunity to get creative with the content you’re sharing while allowing for more innovation with your distribution strategies, and finally, network channels can be an empowering place for you to take chances and discover new and interesting careers by becoming familiar with the career paths of others.
Depending on the industry you work in, networking might be a regular occurrence and something you're already comfortable with, but if you're new to the concept, you may wonder if it’s necessary or beneficial for your career. The wonderful thing about networking is that anyone can participate. Since the rise of community-building platforms, we have seen people across all industries with different specialties take advantage of networking resources in order to connect and learn. To reiterate, networking is a very broad term and there are hundreds if not thousands of different networking formats. Some of which you may be familiar with include conferences, meetups, roundtable discussions, public speakers, and industry events. There is often a great deal of cross-pollination at these events between attendees or presenters that not only results in the exchange of information or ideas but indirectly supporting and investing in one another because people actually enjoy paying it forward.
The evolution of networking seemed to almost happen overnight as the internet revolutionized nearly all forms of communication. With that came the conception of community and social platforms that provide people with the access to create virtual resumes and connect with industry professionals with the click of a button. We have also seen a significant uptick in online credited courses which have contributed and enhanced one's list of qualifications and expertise in which they are able to add to their CV, making them a more attractive prospect and a more professional networker. Social media in particular has changed networking in a big way, as people now people have another outlet to build connections and promote networking events to a wider audience. Social media is also the optimal space for getting creative with attracting viewers or participants with partnerships and collaborations, and of course with the ability to go ‘viral’. The speedy evolution of network marketing has both contributed to the success of networking as well as shown that it can be ‘sleazy, manipulative or inauthentic at times. Many people think about networking in terms of the three types, which are operational, personal, and strategic.
Operational: This type of network includes the internal parts of an organization with its purpose is to be efficient and to identify who is dependable and will help the company to succeed.
Personal: The aim of this network is to form or strengthen your personal and professional development through the use of your connections. It's here where your network is mainly outside of your work and contacts are able to connect you to referrals and assist you in getting to the next level of your interests.
Strategic: The purpose of this network is to assist in identifying potential priorities and goals and make both internal and external contacts that will be future-oriented.
To avoid being a contributing factor towards the less appealing side of network marketing, we must avoid treating it as a modern-day pyramid scheme where we use people in order to advance for our own gain. This is done through understanding what is it we want to achieve through networking and what we want to do with the connections we make, and how we can help others as others have helped us. To be an effective networker you must be responsible and respectful of people’s information and ensure you are not acting as a salesperson when having open and genuine conversations. Embracing a non-spammy approach to networking will demonstrate both your seriousness and competence when facilitating conversations and outreach opportunities and especially when asking something of your network. It is crucial to do your research prior to networking. Ensure your due diligence by taking the time to educate yourself about the industry or position you’re interested in as this will help guide you to understand which networking opportunities are best for you. If you are networking the right way, you will be quick to pick up on all the amazing networking communities that are solely dedicated to helping young entrepreneurs or small brands get started or accelerate their business. This will show you the volume of those who are eager to network in a meaningful way for the purpose of helping others thrive.
When you begin or continue to network, don’t be afraid to ask questions as to why people like or dislike network marketing. If someone has seen great success and enjoys the process of networking, take the time to understand why & how (why they are networking and how they are going about it). On the other hand, if you’re speaking to someone who doesn’t enjoy the notion of networking, you may discover that they are skipping over the fundamentals or the core concepts and ethical principles of how networking should be accomplished, and you will then be given the opportunity to learn from their mistakes. With new technology that seems to be popping up daily and altering the trajectory of networking, remember not to use and abuse the line of communication in which we can so easily contact people. There are so many unique and interesting ways to network, and there are even more platforms and groups you can join to meet like-minded individuals who are also keen to educate themselves, make powerful and valuable bonds, and support others based on their own experiences throughout their career so far.