In its simplest form, networking is the ongoing process of nurturing relationships with people to advance a certain objective from a place of common interest. As an entrepreneur – as an agent of change – networking can be one of your most effective skills to cultivate. Why?
Relationships are essential. And in many ways who can vouch for you is a reflection of who you are as a person. The following are just five objectives (however, there are more) every entrepreneur should satisfy through their network:
- Build and protect your reputation
- Create strong connections…advocates
- Demonstrate your value
- Develop a support group
- Broaden your brand
In order to keep your networking effective and genuine you should first accept that every connection you make may not necessarily lead to a new job, a lucrative business deal, or any other self-interest. Here, the adage “the more you give, the more you receive” or any other variation thereof holds true. Networking gives others the opportunity to validate your worth and your work. A strong network is one in which the people within it advocate for you, especially when you need them the most. When you tap into your network you activate the power of relationships. Whether seeking a strong referral after a sudden job loss or establishing your business in a new market, with whom you shake hands and exchange smiles could be your ultimate asset. And in this digital age where long-lasting relationships can spark from a clever hashtag or a thoughtful Facebook post, we must be even more cognizant of the different ways these social interactions take place and learn how best to exploit them.
Need to grow your network? Start with LinkedIn, Meetups, and “small talk”
If there aren’t any organized groups available in your area you always have the option of creating one yourself. A co-working space, a neighborhood coffee shop (you should communicate with the owner beforehand), a shared community space, a living room – nearly any space can be formatted for hosting a networking group. If identifying a location is a challenge, online gatherings organized through a Facebook group can be just as effective.
Predictably, life happens unpredictably. It’s a wicked paradox that we must all observe and yet makes the perfect case for being seen and heard. At its core, networking reminds us of the value of relationships in every facet of life.