A Networked Future (& Some Choccie Biscuits)!
Networking tips from Alex Mitchell FRSA, Head of Influencer Relations at the Institute of Directors (IoD), Founding Member of the G20 Young Entrepreneurs Alliance and Co-Founder of The Enterprise Collective.
I was asked to write a blog on 'networking', but to be frank I haven't got the faintest idea what networking is. I haven't taken classes in it, I haven't been on courses to learn it, I haven't read any books about it, but I have been told that I am ok at it. That or people are just being nice to me!
When Shell LiveWIRE asked me to write about my thoughts on networking, I instantly thought oh dear God! What am I going to say, why will anyone want to hear what I have to say. As such I have been doing everything possible to put off putting pen to paper (or fingers to keys!).
But here I am, a Friday afternoon after a very hectic 10 days, sitting in front of my laptop in a cafe in central London. 4 cups of coffee already drunk my 5th in front of me, all my emails done, my to do list has lots of ticks on it and I have a big plate of chocolate digestives beside me. I am already on a caffeine rush, I will soon be on a sugar rush, so if now isn't a great time to write something then I don't know when will be! So one chocolate biscuit down and here I go...
What Networking Means To Me
The word ‘networking’ is a cold/hard one; it is quite clinical and doesn't really have any emotion attached to it. The actual art of networking is the very opposite of this. Networking is a relationship. You can’t think of it in any traditional sense, you can’t box networking; you can’t explain it away using buzz word bingo business jargon.
For me, networking in its broadest sense is very simple, it’s about helping people. I believe very much in karma, if you help others then they will in turn help you. This is true with networking. You can’t go into a meeting or a conversation thinking ‘what is in this for me’. If you do, you will be at risk of being too blinkered, of missing opportunities, of focusing on the short term and not thinking of the long game.
I realise that I might be coming across as a bit altruistic, business is tough, your time is precious, you need new clients, you need access to new markets you need new revenue streams etc. I am not saying that every minute of every hour of every day should be spent networking. But true networking is relationship building, and any relationship needs time to be spent on it.
Successful networking is dependent on the partners involved, which leads me onto ‘networkers’. Am I a networker? Yes I am, but there are a lot of different types of networkers and in my different roles over the years I think I have seen almost every type. A key to networking is to try and work out what type of networker is in front of you. If you spend time on them, if you help them out, but they never do anything for you in return, (no matter how small), it is all one way, it is a waste of time and you are better off out of it. That type of individual may succeed in the short term, but in the long run people will work out what they are about and trust will be lost. Remember the world is a small place and word does get around.
Whether you want to or not, you will usually end up building networks around you that are made up of people who are very similar to you. If you go into networking thinking ‘what can I get out of this’ you will end up surrounding yourself with similar people. But if you go in thinking ‘how can I help this person’ then you will surround yourself with people thinking the same.
The title of this post was ‘a networked future’ and I should briefly explain what I meant by this.
Thanks to Gordon Moore and his law, the exponential growth we have seen in computing and the explosion we have seen in social networks, our interaction to people from all over the globe is only a mouse click away and it is set to only get easier. Global trade will soon be a part of every business, large or small; therefore the importance of networking and having a diverse network around you will become ever more important. Your network will be able to facilitate introductions, give recommendations, and provide market knowledge and intelligence. It will help to give you the competitive advantage.
I will finish with some top tips:
- Help others, you never know who you will meet and who they are networked with
- Try and work out what type of networker is sitting in front of you
- Don't go into a networking opportunities with the ‘what is in it for me’ mentality
- Creating a network takes time and commitment, remember this and don't think it will happen overnight
- Be honest with your answers, if you can’t help someone, say so
- Think dynamically about who you are meeting, if you can’t help them, maybe someone in your network can
- Be engaged, don't be dismissive, remember the person you are speaking to is passionate about their area
I don't know if I have said anything interesting, it seems to be very basic, but I think networking is. Don't over think it. The world is full of amazing people trying to do fascinating things. If you can create a network around you incorporating these types of individuals, then the personal and professional enrichment it will give you will be truly remarkable. Good luck and have fun!
Find Out More
To find out more about Alex and the great work that he does, take a look at the following:
Alex Mitchell FRSA, Head of Influencer Relations at the Institute of Directors (IoD), Founding Member of the G20 Young Entrepreneurs Alliance and Co-Founder of The Enterprise Collective