“The currency of real networking is not greed but generosity” Keith Ferrazzi

Since starting my own consultancy I have been curiously and happily struck by the number of discussions I have had with potential competitors. Some have come about with people I know, where I have been explicit in my intentions – essentially ‘please share your experiences so I can learn and avoid any issues that you’ve had’ or there may be a particular issue that I need guidance on and I reached out to someone who may have faced it and dealt with it! Others have originated through sites like LinkedIn; people doing similar things and willing to reach out to swap notes. There have been an increasing number of people who have asked to connect for the purposes of ‘broadening their network’ but on acceptance have immediately sent me a pitch selling their tax advice or marketing services. Notwithstanding the occasional ‘spam’ approach, it does seem there is a genuine interest in people wanting to get in touch, swap notes and see where future potential and mutual opportunities may lie.

I’ll admit that networking is not something that comes naturally to me. Applying Jung’s personality traits, I am definitely more of a ‘thinking introvert’ than ‘feeling extrovert’ – the latter being characteristics that seemed to dominate sales teams in which I’ve worked in the past. Imposter syndrome rears its head again! Indeed, the very fact that I’m writing a blog on a weekly basis is not something I would ordinarily be inclined to do, but for my editorial committee’s (wife and daughter) recommendation to up my online presence and be more visual. That said, my weekly routine of putting pen to paper has now something I actively look forward to.

For a self-employed individual searching high and low for new business opportunities, upping my network and increasing my engagement is an essential part of the business strategy, so simply not something I can overlook. Given this backdrop, I was interested to read an article entitled “Build a network — even when you don’t think you need one”[1] In the article, those who believe they don’t need to network are referred to as “lone wolves” and offers some thoughts on refocusing their networking process to the extent that it might even be enjoyable!

First, the author suggests that some people may avoid networking on the basis that they perceive it as a ‘slimy, classless transaction’. I have to admit that I’ve been to too many conferences where it seems the key objective is all about pushing a business card into someone’s hand, rather than actually engaging and getting to know people. The author suggests counteracting this concern by considering networking as a ‘way to making interesting friends for the long-term’. It seems a nice idea, but there are quite a lot of people with whom I would like to do business – and would enjoy being with in the business context – but wouldn’t necessarily see them as potential friends.

Second, rather than looking at quantity of connections it is suggested that you focus on who it is you want to connect with and make a wish list of people to get to know – the challenge being working out the best way of making that connection. Third, recognise that if your network isn’t sufficiently deep then the potential for you to progress your career is going to be inhibited. Finally, identify the way to network that best fits who you are, whether that is face to face at conferences or via digital media.

What struck me whilst writing this piece was why is it that I would dwell on the concept of networking more now, relative to when I was employed? I suppose there is a greater element of self-promotion to the networking now, as opposed to getting in contact with someone for a specific purpose, i.e. introducing an investment strategy or seeking a meeting. Or perhaps because I’m seeking a new audience for my business so relying on my existing network may be insufficient for financial success? Whatever the reason, I have to admit to enjoying expanding the circle and with it increasing the diversity of experiences.

As ever, I am curious to hear your thoughts.

[1] https://hbr.org/2020/02/build-a-network-even-when-you-dont-think-you-need-one Dorie Clark, Feb 25 2020

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