1. Generate opportunities for your business
This is probably the reason that most people will spend time networking – to generate the kind of high-quality referrals their business needs. These might be a direct lead from a member of the group or a referral to someone they know; in either case, leads will have a level of ‘pre-qualification’ because the people you network with have the opportunity to get to know what you do.
2. Exchange fresh ideas or gain a different perspective
It’s very easy in any role to get tied up in ‘business as usual’ and forget to step back from time to time. Networking gives us the opportunity to do this and to reflect on our own roles. Whether our network is based on geography or on industry, there will always be opportunities to keep up with trends. Coming away with a great new idea, however simple, could be as valuable as coming away with a new lead.
3. Raise your personal profile
Whether you are networking on your own behalf or on behalf of your employer, raising your profile is a big benefit of networking. As a freelancer, being more visible will help you stay ahead of your competition with your network. They will see you as being open to opportunities, whether collaborating on a project or inviting you to another network they are part of. As an employee, networking could find you a promotion internally or an exciting new opportunity with another organisation.
4. Be a positive influencer – and benefit yourself
Amongst the cut and thrust of business, it is important to remember to give something back occasionally. There will be people in our networking group who could benefit from our experience and to know that we have faced (and overcome) business challenges too. Not only does it give you the satisfaction of having helped but the time may come when you will be the one needing advice and you’ve sown the seeds of a reciprocal, mutually trusting relationship. Who doesn’t need a sounding board once in a while?
5. Build your own confidence
Networking is a great way to build your own self-esteem and your confidence in your organisation. Having people engage with you and ask questions can reassure you that you do know your stuff. Practice makes perfect, of course, so it’s worth giving yourself a head start by jotting down and rehearsing your 60 second pitch. As you become more self-assured, you may find you don’t need it or are adapting things ‘on the fly’ but having it noted down is a solid start.
6. Develop long-lasting friendships
Perhaps this is a benefit that we probably didn’t set out to find but a benefit, nevertheless. You may start to think of your network more as ‘colleagues’ than as business associates, a particular benefit if you are self-employed. Relationships that started out as professional can evolve into friendships too.
To gain all of these benefits from networking, you do have to invest in the process. Your network will learn to trust you because you share, you reciprocate, and you show up regularly enough – not because you come with a “what’s in it for me” attitude.