Networking and why it is Crucial for Managers
Networking can be defined as interacting with other people to exchange information, share contacts, and eventually build relationships that might lead to career development. When done right, networking can provide crucial support, information, resources, feedback, and advice valuable to one’s career.
For managers, having a job is not enough, and to advance professionally, one must continue to build networks within and without their industry. In a competitive world where education, qualifications, and talent are abundant, having the right connections can make all the difference. To borrow an apt phrase, ‘what you know is who you know.’
Many managers, however, do not consciously invest in networking, a crucial career mistake. Some find it manipulative and political, akin to using people. Others don’t regard it very highly, failing to see how it impacts their career trajectory. On the contrary, networking is not only about receiving, but also about giving. It is not only about what other people can do for you but also about what you can do for them.
Benefits of Networking
Networking has many benefits, some of which include:
It strengthens relationships- Networking is not only about what you can get from others, but also about what you can give. When you assist people within your networks with information, referrals, or ideas, you build stronger relationships and position yourself for mutual reciprocation.
Sharing of knowledge- Networking gives you an excellent chance to hear other people’s thoughts and perspectives on topics of interest. It also allows you to discuss challenges and how to overcome them, especially if it is with someone who has been in a similar position.
It opens up opportunities- When you build a strong network, you open up chances for new opportunities. These could be in the form of referrals, partnerships, new clients, ideas for personal growth, and opportunities to gain new knowledge.
It builds confidence- Regularly meeting with people who are successful in their respective fields can give you a much-needed confidence boost. They can give you insights and thoughts on how to excel in your role. If you are an introvert, forming new friendships with like minded people can be quite beneficial.
It raises your profile- Networking allows you to get noticed by the right people in the right circles. Attending social and professional events can be an excellent chance to show and share your knowledge with other people. This will not only make your face known but will also showcase you as knowledgeable and helpful.
Types of Networks
There are three types of networks that any manager should strive to cultivate. These are:
- Operational networks
- Personal networks
- Strategic networks
An operational network is the immediate network that you require to do your job successfully. This could consist of superiors, fellow managers, team members, suppliers, and even customers. Most managers are efficient at cultivating this network as it is necessary for getting the job done. As a manager, you must ensure that you grow your operational networks beyond the scope given by the task at hand to gain more benefits.
A personal network comprises contacts that are not directly related to your job, but that could be useful in your professional development. For the most part, these are like-minded professionals that you meet in sports clubs, seminars, alumni meetings, and social gatherings. Personal networks are best placed to give you useful information and contacts, especially when making a career move. It is within a personal network that you might know someone who knows someone who holds the information that you need.
Most managers struggle with creating strategic networks. A strategic network is crucial for managers who are focused on becoming influential business leaders in their fields. Strategic networking involves creating lateral and vertical relationships that will help you to hone your vision for the future, develop your ideas, and get the information and resources needed to realize them. Creating a strategic network borders on ‘politicking’ - leveraging your influence on others for mutual benefit. An aspiring leader will use both internal and external contacts to gain support, information, and resources from the network to get things done in a specific area.
Tips for Successful Networking
Have the right attitude- To be successful in networking, you must have the right attitude. Networking is not asking for favors or taking advantage of people. It is a necessary reciprocal activity that will put you in touch with the people you need to advance your career. It is also a chance for you to share your knowledge and expertise with others.
Start where you are- You might find it daunting to approach strangers during an industry award gala. Start by creating contacts within your area of expertise by joining forums and online discussions. Familiarizing yourself with like-minded individuals will make it that much easier to start face-to-face talks with other people.
Commit your time- As described at the beginning of this article, networking is a long term strategy. You will need to consciously allocate time to create a network, especially outside of your operational system. This might entail sparing a weekend to attend a retreat or spending a few hours after work at an inter-departmental mixer.
Be active- There is no much use in creating networks that you don’t utilize. Be an active participant by connecting people and sharing information. Do not be the person who shows up only when you want something. By networking even when you don’t need it, you will build a reputation for being helpful. This will come in handy when you come looking for help in the network.
Treat everyone respectfully- Each person in a network can have great value, regardless of their work title. Do not dismiss people simply because they don’t have the right title or perceived influence. The secretary you dismiss at a gathering might know the exec you have been trying to reach out to for months.
Leverage social media- Social networks such as LinkedIn and Facebook are a great way to connect with like minded people, grow your professional connections and learn about new opportunities. LinkedIn for instance gives you a chance to brand yourself and be seen by millions of people and companies. It is also an important avenue where you can keep abreast of the happenings in your industry, gain new skills and share your thoughts on various topics.