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Diahanne Rhiney
Networking: A relationship or a contract?

NETWORKING: Is it a relationship or a contract?

NETWORKING AND building relationships should be a fundamental part of our success.

Franklin D Roosevelt once said: "The most important single ingredient in the formula of success is knowing how to get along with people". However, the notion that business is all about making money is not quite the big picture.

Profits are important, but strong networks will provide sustainability, strength and continued growth through opportunities. For most people, the term ‘networking’ conjures up pictures of the hard sell and self-promotion that perhaps now has become an outdated concept.

People often turn up at events to randomly hand out business cards with a well-rehearsed, not very thought out pitch, all with the expectation of gaining new business or contacts. In more recent times, social media has provided a new platform to bombard potential contacts with promotional adverts from people who have never taken the time to previously engage with us.

Unfortunately, at a time where trust is in decline, networking events have turned into a place of fear that most people loathe attending. They have a bad reputation for superficial small talk that make people especially new comers feel awkward, pressured and uncomfortable.

Networking shouldn’t be about working a room or telling everyone how fabulous you are. Real networking is about building meaningful, mutually beneficial lasting relationships, whilst maintaining integrity. It is through strong relationships that are central to any business that will help to build those key relationships that will provide that craved competitive advantage.

The power of networks should not be underestimated. The old adage “It’s not what you know, but who you know” is still very true, but it’s more nuance than that. The self-help books will tell you that the size of your network is not important, however, research suggests that individuals who simply know a lot of people are less likely to achieve standout success, because they are spreading themselves too thin.

Likewise, having lots of connections is not entirely beneficial either, as your will often be perceived as being overly self-interested and lose support as a result.

The Harvard Business Review study shows that top executives ten to have a diverse, yet select network formed of strong relationships. Therefore, this misguided approach adopted by many, will only help to build imbalanced networks, pursue the wrong kind of relationships, or leveraging relationships ineffectively. These people might remain successful for a time, but often they will hit a plateau or see their career derailed because their networks are unable to support any development or transition.

A more positive approach should be a setting where giving of yourself far outweighs promoting yourself. An environment where there is time to listen, share, connect, introduce and support. An opportunity to be present in the moment, genuinely exploring concerns of others whilst finding out if there is anything you can actually do to help. These are the characteristics that nurture and build mutual relationships and the kind of networking that people will enjoy. Here are some tips that will make your networking experience more productive and enjoyable:

Be Yourself
You are you so be that. It’s important to be authentic as that is how people will remember you. If someone starts talking about something you’re unsure of or not interested, find a polite way to leave the conversation or admit that’s not your lane. Most of all, don’t pretend to be something that you’re not.

You are your brand
You’re image, what you say and do are all building your profile. How others see you and what makes you unique, will determine your network. So act on your values with integrity and remember your word should really be your bond.

Have Fun
Enjoy the journey

They say a business is only as good as the client it serves and if this statement is true, the key is to building long lasting relationships based on honesty, sharing and partnership. Traditional networking events are purely transactional and therefore the relationships tend to be short term in nature. Networking may have been yesterday’s buzzword, but building valuable relationships is the key to becoming a successful business, because with these relationships, there is only room for a win-win situation.

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