So if I told you you could obtain the skills that would enable you to develop better career opportunities, generate new business, develop a network of alliances, build partnerships and contacts, make departments talk to each other and be more effective, would you believe me ? If I said that you were able to tap into crossing-selling opportunities, gain market information, set up a business and make a success out of it, alongside improving your own self-marketing skills would you think I was mad? If I told you that all of this was at your fingertips, and all you needed to do was find a little bit of confidence and a small amount of time, would you think I was mad. The skill I am referring too is the ability to network – once you discover the benefits, you will soon find it is one of the most important tools in your business armory.
Networking is often something individuals find especially hard to do and worse still, people don’t realize the benefits it reaps. I hear all to often, so what’s the point, it's all about chewing the fat and having drinks with people you don’t really know – much better to get out there, be excellent at your job, invent a new product, work ridiculous hours and deliver stuff, right ? – well, let me challenge that.
Unfortunately, building a successful career or business is as much about who you know (and who knows you) as it is about doing a good job or selling a good product. If some of you are horrified by the thought of Networking, let’s park the actual word for a bit, and think of it more the “art of career/business development” or “developing key relationships”.
The “art” itself is nothing more than making the effort to go to event that’s right for you or your business and connecting with new people. It is also a fantastic way of keeping your future customers/colleagues or peers informed of what you do, what you are good at and above all how you can help them. It is the cheapest form of PR and bear in mind, no one will ever sell you or your business like you do.
A question I get asked frequently is is it OK to go to events and just hand out business cards to all and sundry. In the right context, handing out your business card is absolutely the right thing to do. What you need to consider is when NOT to do it. In short never hand out your card if you haven’t established a positive/good connection between you and the other people in the group (or the person you are speaking to). Otherwise you might be seen as superficial, pushy, sales-like etc. What you MUST avoid is leaving the wrong impression with people. If you haven’t connected with them we can almost guarantee where your card and brand and reputation will end up… in the bin.
People often ask if there is a case for business networking? My answer is if you want to open career doors, gain opportunities to develop personal skills, extend your personal resources, gain industry knowledge, monitor competitor activity, influence key people, bring in new business, find business partners or new employees, demonstrate abilities, test out ideas and skills, exchange best practice and above all raise your profile, then the answer is Yes. Alternatively, you could always just stay indoors and perhaps miss the opportunity to meet the exact person who will move you, your career or your business forward. As my grandmother always told me, boats come in for the lucky few, for the rest of us, we have to swim out to them !
Vanessa Vallely is a recognized expert in person-to-person business networking, online branding and a sought after motivational speaker. She is regarded as one of the most well networked women in and out of the City and is passionate about sharing her know-how and experiences with others.
There are hundreds of networking events across the London and the UK, we feature a number of these on www.wearethecity.com. If you wish to contact Vanessa, please email Enquries@wearethecity.com or visit www.vanessavallely.com