When I was first starting out in my career, I was a lone wolf. I was singularly responsible for my performance and my success. I wasn't interested in joining networking groups or meeting new people at luncheons or around the office. All I had to do was do a good job and everything would be ducky. Well, that was a load of crap. You have to have a network and you have to work it. Nobody succeeds alone. And even if you do, why would you want to?
For starters, how will you find someone to help you bury the body if you don't have partners in crime? Who will drive off the cliff with you?
Networking is invaluable for many reasons. It creates a system of relationships that you can rely on all day long.
When you learn something new and you share it within your network, your people can share that learning with their people, and the learning can spread from the individual, to a group and from that group to other groups.
This is Senge's principle of team learning, and it is the same as a meme going viral on social media. Your voice can have a real impact.
Check out Senge's book: The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of The Learning Organization
Your network can also provide support and guidance. When you are in unknown territory, you can tap on the shoulder of a colleague for help. When you are in trouble, you can ask for a parachute. Talking tough issues through with people you trust can help you to find your compass so that you can make good decisions.
Networking is also important when it comes to recruitment. It helps you to tap into other networks in order to find talented people to join your team or organization. Likewise, it can expose you to new professional opportunities.
Networking can also help you find a mentoring relationship. Whether you are the mentor or the mentee, this relationship can really accelerate your career.
When it comes to women and networking, there is also an added benefit. You are establishing a credible and reliable brand among your colleagues, in your organization, your community and your industry. This can be especially important for women taking on senior roles with significant challenges. Since success and likability are negatively correlated for women, having loyal relationships with your peers makes all the difference in the world when the critics get noisy.
If you are new in the workforce or looking to expand your network, here are some ways to start:
- Make a point of having a coffee, lunch or cocktail with a person from your primary or secondary network at least once a month to ensure you are making time for your important relationships
- Take advantage of natural networking opportunities, like luncheons and social gatherings, to meet new people and find those who share your interests
- Follow up with people you meet in person on LinkedIn to stay connected
- Tap into your network when you have an interesting problem and be sure to follow up with people so they know how they helped you
Above all, you must maintain your personal and professional integrity to be successful at networking. People will be looking for consistency between your words and your actions, and for your authentic self to shine through in these relationships.
A strong network will be a source of pride and a reminder of the good person that you are. You will have people to join your missions, folks to celebrate the successes and commiserate over the failures and friends who will champion you until they are blue in the face. Life is so much more fulfilling when we share our time and our passions with the people around us.
So maybe skip the crime spree, but do forge bonds with people that could survive one.
If this moves you, I invite you to join in on the conversation by posting a comment or sharing on social media.