Networking is not a new concept. It used to mean the power lunch, golfing with colleagues, or drinks after work. Then came the growth of associations, conferences, and trade shows. And now networking has changed dramatically with online resources like LinkedIn and Facebook.
“Networking” used to be a buzzword; today it’s almost cliché. Often the connotation can be a bit negative, associated with sales or job searching.
But don’t tune out the power of networking. Whatever your role, unexpected benefits can come from making networking part of your routine. A myriad of articles and self-help books pontificate the benefits of networking. A quick search will give you a list dating back 10 to 12 years.
Most basically say similar things (thus the “cliché”) regarding benefits:
- Shared knowledge and exchange of information
- New opportunities and opened doors
- New connections and widened support network
- Increased confidence
- Raised profile
- Increased business and new referrals
These frequently identified benefits leave out three hidden perks that can give you an edge in your daily life:
1. Lose The Last-Minute Time Crunch
We often receive calls from people with a deadline to launch a project in three months or less, but with a required vendor vetting process to complete first. The result is often either a rushed development process or a delay of the launch date. Either way, the result inevitably equates to more stress than needed for everyone involved.
For example, we recently completed a project in which we developed three hours of eLearning in about six weeks, about half the standard time. The client spent the previous three months vetting vendors, resulting in a time crunch. Which means, you guessed it, more stress for our client and our team.
People always fixate on project costs but disregard the associated mental and emotional toll. Job-related stresses aren’t completely unavoidable, but by spending a little bit of time networking with potential vendors in your field, life will be easier when you need them to start ASAP. Knowing their capabilities, and feeling comfortable with their culture and communication style will give you a much-needed head start.
2. Have a Little Fun Already!
Networking is traditionally thought of as a formal, deliberate act at an industry event, but it doesn’t need to be. What we think of as simply having lunch with a colleague, grabbing a cup of coffee, or a drink after work can also count as networking.
Getting to know people on a personal level helps build trust and an understanding of their values. You don’t need to be best friends with your coworkers, clients, or vendors, but learning their background and what makes them tick helps minimize and diffuse conflicts or tension, making your job more fun.
Relationship building becomes even more significant when it comes to potential vendors or outside partners, people you don’t see and work with every day. Maintaining a relationship throughout the year makes the segue into a project much more enjoyable.
Our consultants often become an extension of our clients’ team and become immersed in their culture. It’s always fun to see the faces of colleagues light up when we announce a new project with someone they know or have worked with in the past.
3. You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know or… It’s Not What You Know, But Who You Know
How’s that from a guy who was just demeaning clichés a few paragraphs ago? Because most people are familiar with these concepts, they often downplay the benefits. No matter how long you work with someone, every casual conversation can bring new knowledge of their background or capabilities. This new information has the potential to broaden your pool of internal resources or your understanding of your outside partners’ capabilities. And vice versa, as your internal clients learn more about you, more opportunities are sent your way.
Last year, I accepted invitations to meet (network) with representatives of two different solutions companies to explore potential partnering opportunities. I was skeptical at first, and no obvious opportunity arose from either meeting. However, a few months later, in a meeting with a potential client, he inquired about my knowledge of any providers offering those same solutions. I was able to immediately provide the names of the two companies I’d met with, and offer details about each. My client was surprised and grateful for the information. WIN!
We all know that the only “constant” is constant change (more clichés!). Recently, two clients who worked with us in years past found themselves displaced from their jobs. For one former client, a new project which needed someone with her exact experience and background. Easy staffing for us. Right back to the workforce for her. WIN-WIN!
Another current client needed to fill a full-time role before their project could kick off and asked us for referrals. Acquaintance number two was a great fit. Quick hiring process, and no project delays. Everybody won!
Most of us don’t spend our time thinking about another job when we’re perfectly happy with the one we have. But, should an unfortunate circumstance arise, the more people you know, the better off you’ll be. In fact, a recent Jobvite study found employees hired through referral are hired 55 percent faster than those who come from a career site. Life is easier for both the employer and the prospect. Whether you’re hiring or seeking, calling upon your network helps.
Networking provides value on many levels and doesn’t need to be a chore. The more resources you have at your immediate disposal helps in hitting deadlines and shortening timelines. The more familiar you are with those you work with, the more seamless and smooth changes, transitions, and new projects become. Finally, (particularly in this industry) we all have a desire to continue learning. The more you learn about those around you, the more useful you can be for each other.