7 benefits of networking according to 80 of my trusted contacts

Networking Series Blog 1 –

I recently surveyed 80 professional contacts about the benefits they have gained from networking activities. These are the top 7 benefits they shared in order of frequency:

1. Building a support system. 84% of the respondents have benefited from having people to go to as a sounding board and for advice. I learnt about the personal Board of Directors concept from the founder of Protégé Business Mentoring, Louise Tagliante and have subsequently read more about it. We benefit from having a range of individuals to go to who bring different things, e.g. someone who is a subject matter expert, someone who will cheer us on, someone who will challenge us, someone who thinks very differently to us, someone who is our customer and so on.

2. Learning and professional growth. Learning and development shouldn’t be something that gets ‘done’ to us at work. Throughout our career we need to be proactive and seek out opportunities to learn wherever we can. By connecting with others, we can learn from them. We can reap the benefits of understanding what they have done well and challenges they have overcome. We can get different perspectives and diversity of thought. 72% of those surveyed said they have learnt and grown professionally from their network.

3. Increased chance of being approached for future opportunities. 62% said networking has led to career opportunities for them. This isn’t simply a case of having some recruiters / head-hunters in your network (although I strongly recommend you do), it is far broader. The more people who know who you are and the work you do, the greater likelihood you will be approached for projects, secondments and internal moves as well as external job opportunities. A mistake I see too often is great performers neglecting their external network to focus all their time and effort on their day job.

4. Improved performance in role. Networking benefits your day job too. I have spoken with individuals who say their network has made a huge difference to projects they are managing in work. For example, planning a conference and having a wide network of speakers to draw on. Or not having to start from scratch with influencing internal stakeholders when they have previously and proactively made the effort to get to know them. 52% said networking has helped improve their performance in their current role.

5. Making professional friends. My personal favourite benefit of connecting with others, is when the relationship moves beyond a professional acquaintance to much more. Keith Ferrazzi talks about this concept, using a scaling system for his relationships:

-1 = strained relationship.
0  = someone you have never met
1  = someone you have met
2  = an acquaintance
3  = a trusted contact

By investing time in nurturing our professional relationships we can move them up the scale to a 3. Some of my friends today are people I first met in a professional setting and over time have got to know really well and would be more than a 3 on Keith’s scale!

6. Sharing knowledge and experience to avoid reinventing the wheel. A benefit that was mentioned by a few was the ability to fast track activities they are working on by gathering content from others, rather than having to create everything fresh. I have benefited from this many times over the years when I have reached out to some of my trusted contacts for help – ‘does anyone have any great content on topic X for a session I am writing?’ etc. It is of course two-way – helping others and being helped. Life is so much easier if you don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time you do anything.

7. Keeping up with trends and innovations in the sector. Networking is a great way to know what is going on outside your own organisation within your industry sector or professional specialism. Who do you know in competitor organisations? Who are your peers you most respect? I was quoted in a magazine article some years ago alongside a headhunter from another organisation in the HR Search world. Technically a competitor, yes, but an excellent one. I reached out to them. We met for coffee, shared experiences and clicked immediately. Almost 20 years later we remain in regular contact.

Given all these wonderful benefits, why do so many people feel negatively about networking?

You might be interested in my follow up blog People hate the word networking more than the activity itself – does it need a rebrand?

Looking for a speaker on the benefits of developing relationships for a work event? Get in touch about my session ‘Stop hiding, start networking!’

Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

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