Networking can cause discomfort for some, with it recognised that some feel furthering their career through contacts rather than ‘good old-fashioned hard work’ may be – in some ways – cheating. Researchers have even proven that some of you feel ‘dirty’ after engaging in networking. Chief Nation wants to challenge that point of view. We believe networking is not just an essential tool in the construction of a successful career, but a great way to strengthen and expand businesses. We want to convert the professional purists, and prove that networking really isn’t naughty, but necessary.
Here’s the evidence. Harvey Coleman – author of ‘Empowering Yourself, The Organizational Game Revealed’ – claims that main thing affecting your career progression is PIE, though not the eating kind. Performance, Image and Exposure are the ingredients in Coleman’s PIE, but his theory on how much these three factors contribute to your career is the most interesting idea.
Most people would consider Performance the most influential factor of these three, however Coleman states that your ability and achievements can only take you 10% of the way, without a positive image and the right people knowing about you there’s no way your name will stick out during a board meeting. So how important is image? Coleman suggests that cultivating a positive reputation plays a larger role in career progression than performance; claiming a 30% stake. The controlling factor in Coleman’s model however, is Exposure – who’s heard of you. This is where networking comes in.
Consider this, we are taught as children that the unfamiliar is unsafe: never talk to strangers, don’t wander away when you’re somewhere new – parents protect by drilling a fear of the unknown into our subconscious. These basic childhood lessons have left a residual wariness of the unfamiliar. Similarly, in marketing, a brand’s exposure and reputation link directly to its consumer loyalty. New can be exciting, but there is always the chance that it will disappoint, most inherently believe it’s best to stick with the things you know. Translate this into personal marketing in the corporate world and we come away with a clear message: people prefer familiar faces.
So what comes of great PIE? In this case, not a satisfied appetite, but opportunity. When people know who you are and what you do, they openly recommend you to others. This may mean new jobs, business contracts, or simply the opportunity to help someone. By building up your relationship network you open yourself up to not only meeting people that can help you, but to those you may also aid. This is important – networking isn’t, and shouldn’t be, all about ‘ME, ME, ME’. It’s an opportunity to share with others, to learn and discover, and most importantly to LISTEN. Andy Lopata – networking genius – insists that listening is the key skill when developing a great network. Give as much, if not more, than you take. Not only will this strengthen your personal image to others, you gain their trust – and thus their loyalty, through offering your services to one and all.
Now we’re not just talking about personal opportunity – your business can benefit too. All that applies to individuals contributes to company success as well; brand awareness within the industry combined with a positive performance record and image can all contribute to bring new alliances together. Individual expansion of networks scale up to aid corporate growth and benefit everyone within the company. For instance, networking can enable the discovery an acquaintance who’s launching a product that could increase your organisation’s online efficiency. For example, the product may allow your company website to handle more traffic during peak times, which in turn could improve your brand’s reputation with customers and aid your new acquaintance by launching his product and providing a platform for future sales. Basically, everybody wins.
Finally, some take away points. It’s estimated that 75% of jobs are found through personal connections, and the top exec roles are never advertised publically – they’re filled by those who are known and trusted by the decision maker. Life isn’t fair, seemingly, to those not willing to mingle. But don’t let this get you down, get up, and get networking.