Networking: What It Is and Why You Should Do It
“It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”
It may sound like a very cynical take on things, but there’s more than a little truth to it. The right relationship with the right person at the right time can make a huge difference in your business fortunes. So how do you meet this wonderful person? One way is by sheer luck. Another more practical way is by networking. To start our new series on networking, we’ll take a look at what networking really means and why it’s so important.
At its simplest, networking is really nothing more than cultivating the right friends in your company or industry, friends whose interests align with yours and who might be in a position to help you out from time to time. It’s a practice as old as time. For example, as far back as 500 B.C., the famed Chinese strategist Sun Tzu recognized the importance of allies.
Networking is a great way to grow your business profile. As you connect with people in your industry, or even outside your field of interest, you'll discover opportunities with different types of mentors and advisors. You’ll be able to increase your visibility with potential clients, further develop your areas of expertise, and improve your soft skills. Networking is the perfect example of every business being ultimately a people business.
Networking is a great way to share ideas and then build on them. Two heads are sometimes better than one. A conversation with a colleague or a mentor might give you the creative insight to solve a particularly vexing problem or to develop a new product. The person you speak with might also be the perfect candidate to help you take your idea to the next level. Sure you can go it alone, but history shows that great ideas are usually invented by teams, not the solitary inventor working late into the night in his or her basement.
Networking is a great way to get noticed. We rightfully put a lot of emphasis on skills and knowledge, and being the best at our particular craft. But what’s the point of being the best if no one notices? You’ve heard of the importance of word of mouth advertising, and you know how valuable it can be. Well, networking is like word-of-mouth advertising in a sense. Make a friend, and then that friend will in turn recommend you to other friends. It’s a great way to get people in your corner, and it all starts with one conversation.
That’s the power of networking, and that’s why you should make networking an important part of your business strategy.