Pro-actively building your network is a one important way to develop yourself, mutually develop and support your peers, share knowledge and be an active part of developing the sector.
Some people find the term ‘networking’ a little off-putting – perhaps it feels pushy, inauthentic or purely business focused. However, whatever you call it, good networking is not any of those things. It is a powerful and rewarding way to use our innate capacity to build and leverage human connection for the benefit of all.
Building a strong network is an important tool and developing these formal and informal links can help you to achieve your goals. To leverage this powerful resource you will need to identify and actively develop your network.
Consider what you want to achieve and also what you can bring to each relationship:
- Peer Support and Friendship
- Information sharing
- Sounding board
- Business opportunities.
Tips for Developing your Network
- Take the time to really think about who your stakeholders are and their needs.
- Set up structured and regular discussions with team members, peers and others throughout your organisation and your wider stakeholder group – there is so much to leverage and learn from one another.
- Spend time being clear on your development priorities and who can help you with them.
- Solicit feedback regularly so you can continually improve and celebrate your successes.
- Reach out to experts across the sector and continually challenge yourself to learn from them.
- Reach out to ‘competitors’ and get to know them better. This should aim to be mutually beneficial
- Consider future stakeholders – who will be important to you and your organisation in 2- or 3-years’ time even though they may not seem to be today
- Set clear goals for yourself in terms of what you want from your network.
To assist you in this, The Networking Guide provides you with a framework and template for targeting key people and initiating conversations.
Before networking: Research
- Who is in this network? What is its goal and target audience?
- What do you want to find out? Develop some questions
- What’s your story? Have a succinct introduction to who you are and what you do? Do you have a specific question you are exploring today?
- Is there anyone in particular with whom you would like to connect? What would you like to achieve with them? Prepare questions accordingly.
During networking: Engage
- Introduce yourself
- Ask others about themselves – listen carefully, be interested and engaged
- Ask open questions
- Participate actively in discussions, breakout rooms, chatbox etc.
- Focus on positive, proactive engagement.
After networking: Follow up
- Follow up quickly with anyone interesting you have met and anyone you spent particular time with
- If you have made a solid connection, reach out on LinkedIn to connect
- Use social media (quality over quantity) such as Twitter, LinkedIn etc to share an event, comment, engage with participants.
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