The underrated value of networking

One of the biggest lessons from the Covid-19 pandemic is that we are, first and foremost, social creatures that thrive through relations.

More than ever, companies strive to put a human face through community outreach; buying decisions are increasingly influenced by word of mouth. Recruiters admit to preferring referral hires. Your network is indeed your net worth.

However, with the increased pressure to balance work-life demands, one can easily find excuses not to socialize and network. “It is draining, time-consuming, and awkward at times, plus I am not a people person,” they say.

I am an introvert; networking is not for me.

Networking involves meeting people with common interests to establish, build and nurtures long-term, mutually beneficial relationships.  It is not an opportunity to make new friends but to advance your professional and business goals.

However, unlike an agentic extrovert like myself, who can walk into a room full of people and start a conversation with a stranger. Introverts may find it extremely draining and intimidating. But all is not lost.

While it is impossible to sleep as an introvert and wake up as an extrovert, you can start slowly; the easiest way is to join various groups with similar interests—gym, jogging club, sports team, professional society, book club, Viccoba, to name but a few. Start with a smaller group and grow into it.

The old tricks of social gestures like complimenting someone’s outfit or a book they are reading, introducing yourself first, and offering to help when you see them struggling will help you break the ice. Take it from there. The more you meet new people, the more you build confidence. Sky is not the limit.

Is networking overrated?

Experts agree that the most connected people are often the most successful since frequent interaction with people from different spheres of life gives you a broader spectrum and open-mindedness.

Your open-mindedness and understanding teach you to become better. If you are an entrepreneur, networking provides support and solutions and access to new leads and markets. Study shows that 65% of new business comes from referrals, and 92% of people trust referrals from people they know.

For those looking for career growth, the burden is on you to take control of your career development in today’s workforce. The more people you meet and get to know, the more people will know you and vouch for you. The notion of waiting until one is in a career transition to build relationships with other professionals is outdated.

Quality over quantity

You do not have to network with everyone. The size of your network doesn’t matter – it is the quality that counts. Be intuitive to the relevance of your networking choices.

Additionally, remember to keep the old connections afloat. Call, text, email, or have coffee occasionally. A birthday or Christmas message will do. Recruit and retain.

From today onwards, keep the gadgets away whenever you are in public and access your networking opportunities.

Godwin Jaha Semunyu is a seasoned Marketer and Head of Corporate Affairs at NBC Bank (T). These are his personal views. He can be reached at: godwingodizo@gmail.com

 

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