We should always be networking, whether we have a specific goal in mind when doing so or not.
When we think of networking, we tend to associate it with a particular purpose. That might be networking to find that first job, in the case of a recent college graduate, or networking to build that book of business, in the case of an accountant, lawyer, or other service professional. In fact, a lot of times we associate networking with trying to go get something, and once we have it, then we can stop networking.
But that’s really not the best way to look at it. Instead, we should always be networking, whether we have a defined purpose in doing so or not. Even when you’re networking without any specific goal in mind, if you’re open-minded to the things you can discover along the way, then here are four benefits that might fall into your lap:
For better or worse, not all connections in your network are created equal. Some may be more connected to others, some may be more insightful than others, and some may be more employable than others. For example,, you probably have some connections who are connected to all the same people as you already. But you might also have a connection who has very little overlap with you. In fact, that person might have contacts to a number of other different networks. When you network to that person, you might find that they have a wealth of connections whom you didn’t even know existed and can help you in areas where you didn’t even realize you could use their help. Network consistently and you’re bound to meet someone like that eventually.
Along the same lines, part of being a small business owner is being entrepreneurial, and that means you take your opportunities when you see them. In this day and age, however, opportunities can be fleeting at best. That ten dollar bill just doesn’t sit there lying on the ground for very long because someone picks it up. So if you want to seize opportunities while they’re there for the taking, you have to fish where the fish are. Get out there and see what comes your way!
One of the things we tend to acquire when we network that isn’t a new job or client or employee is information. There’s a reason why when the shadowy hero in so many Western movies rides into town, the first thing he does is walk into the saloon, and it isn’t just to sample the quality of local moonshine. It’s because that’s where everyone in the local network congregates, and that just so happens to be the best place to acquire new information and get the lay of the land.
When you network, the most important thing you get out of a meeting may be new information. A lot of us are sometimes so busy running our businesses that we forget to look up and think about new developments in technology or society that could be relevant to us but aren’t immediately obviously so. It will, however, have been obvious to someone, and when you network to that person, they might just clue you in.
Everyone in business loves to talk shop. It’s what we do, and it’s way more interesting than the weather. When you share a little information about your business in casual conversation, it tends to elicit a little information from the person you’re talking to. As they try to understand your business from what little information you’ve given them, they’ll start asking questions that wouldn’t occur to you because you’ve lost the ability to separate yourself from the business you spend so much of your time living in. When you start thinking about your business from that person’s perspective instead of your own, that will inevitably give you new insights into your business, and that will help you take a step back from working in your business so that you can work on your business.