It’s really easy to rely on trusted relationships when you want to bounce ideas around and get some friendly input. But relying on a circle of trusted advisers can create a bubble effect, where you end up with familiar information and perspective. That’s where creating a larger circle – a network – comes into play. A large network keeps you better informed. You learn about new ideas. You become more innovative. You get a broad sounding board to flesh out ideas. And you get things done when you’re in a hurry!
I’ve heard from women and men over the years that they aren’t a natural schmoozer or that networking eats up too much time and is therefore, a waste of time. I’ve heard people say they really only trust relationships that form ‘organically’. Whatever that means! I’ve heard a lot of excuses about why people don’t invest – yes, invest – time to develop as broad a network as possible. Well, let me tell you that you can’t possibly spend your time more valuably than in developing, nurturing and expanding your network.
So here are a few rejoinders I’d like to highlight that challenges the mind-set that networking is a waste of time:
- Reaching out to people who you have strategically identified that might be important to your agenda will certainly pay off if and when you need to reach out for advice. My belief is that I can’t have too many people in my network, but you can certainly refine and cull your network to those operatives you feel can definitely lend assistance at some point in your career.
- You don’t have to have the gift of gab in order to be effective networking. Networking is a skill-set and a technique – like a golf swing, only easier! – that you will become better at the more you practice. Speak from the heart and become an agile and effective listener. The rest will happen naturally.
- Networking is insincere and manipulative. Grow up! Networking is what makes the world go ’round. It is a quid pro quo system like any other healthy business or personal relationship.
- The friends I acquire in business are all that I need. There’s more trust there. Well, of course you have more trust, because you build trust over time. You’ll do the same with new acquisitions to your network.
So, if you’re stuck in a bubble, break out. All of the conventions and seminars and summits and town hall meetings – all of it, all of the travel we do in our industry – are golden opportunities to network and expand your reach. Developing a professional network will be the best investment in time you can ever make.