Many who feel their career or performance is faltering are sometimes wary of networking. For the more introverted, networking is daunting. For others it conjures up images of currying favour along corridors of power for personal gain and so is unacceptable.
Transferring the concept of networking from the electronic to the human arena begins to reveal its true value. Networking is about groups of people who connect for the purpose of communication and increased performance.
Networks unleash alternative perspectives and different experiences to sample. They provide understanding and ideas to complement our own, and more information and resources.
Network users can:
- supplement or challenge perceptions, attitudes and delivery - enhancing performance and quality;
- access a richer source of skills and knowledge and development opportunities, mentors and advisers - enhancing competence;
- experience different organisational cultures, including leadership, team and managerial styles - for comparison and even emulation;
- observe and test a wider range of potential talent in employees - improving recruitment and retention;
- extend awareness of career opportunities and access to advice - advancing careers.
In essence, the better your networks the more effective and efficient you will be in achieving your outcomes: delivering that project on time; managing that team member; generating new ideas or enlisting support; understanding your service providers, commissioners or service users; solving that problem and, yes, progressing your career.
On the other hand, neglecting our relationships leaves us impoverished in practice, performance and career.
Take an approach that is:
- Practical: tailored to your purpose and available time. Know why you are networking and choose a few, well placed starting points or people. If you lack confidence, use the routine to get started: share that journey to work, know who’s who in your office, make the most of work socials, contribute to conferences.
- Dynamic: as your confidence and networks grow, you will have to be more selective and make opportunities for yourself, such as tasks based in another directorate, or joining a professional institute.
- Realistic: relationships take time to develop and are based on trust and sharing. Exchange ideas, know-how and connections. Keep your networks open to others. Deliver your promises. Not all your attempts to link with others will work out so keep practising. Observe how others network, take a few tips from the theory, learn from your mistakes.
- Genuine: be true to yourself and find your own style. Talk about things you know about, ask questions, seek advice. Have fun finding out what others do. Enjoy learning from other people’s perspectives. Be confident and open about yourself and what you have to offer.