As the adage states: "No man is an island." Growing up, the inherent sense of belonging had its foundations set in the playground as you started a conversation with another little person who almost looked like you, and wanted to climb the jungle-gym or throw around some sand in the sandpit - just like you. After thirty minutes of play, the other kid becomes your "best friend" and it's only a matter of a day or two before you start nagging your mom to let you go back to the playground to hang out with with your "best friend."
The need for networking, engaging in conversation, shared moments and nurturing wholesome relationships carries us through junior and high school, university and your first day at your first job, where you scope out the coffee break room to ascertain who will be your go to person in your new surroundings. Maybe you say "hi" first or they comment on your outfit, whatever the case is, the bottom line is there will always comes a time, many in a day even, when we need help to reach out and connect with new people and personalities, not only in our quest to learn new things and establish new relationships, but to get ahead. Which is why I have over the years, invested in establishing new contacts who are knowledgeable on all my areas of interest for many a reason. You already know how important networking is for your personal and career growth, but allow me to put a spin on what has worked for me, hopefully shedding light on why networking has been my game-changer personally, professionally and on my entrepreneurial journey.
1. You can only get help if you ask. My mind is constantly buzzing with ideas. While the internet is great for researching start-up or next best steps, first hand counsel goes a long way and helping me cut out the time it takes to sift through copious amounts of information, reviews and opinion - all of which are largely personalised and may not necessarily apply to me. If you are looking to start a cup-cake business, the best place to start is to ask someone in that business if you can work with them or be mentored by them. Trust me when I say this, help often comes from unexpected places. If you don't network and ask people in a room at any given time the right questions, you miss out on opportunities to grab nuggets that can help you make a positively life-changing decision.
2. Networking potentially cements healthy relationships. Everyone loves a great friendship, personal or working relationship, founded on trust, communication and mutual respect. You get what you give out, and if you reach out and are committed to fostering the relationship beyond it being need-based - that's right - you calling only when you need something from them! - some pretty amazing things can start to unfold. If people like you, and think you are an awesome human being, they will always be willing to help you or at least point you in the right direction. Chance meetings have resulted in the birth of partnerships and collaborations I am proud of, and friendships that hold a special place in my quarters. So don't be that person living in a silo when things are good, and reaching for the rolodex when you are in trouble or want to show off a thing or two. A call just to say hello, or a simple message to let someone know they are appreciated, goes a long way to bolstering relationships.
3. Reaching out builds your social net-worth. In the words of Paul Bloom: "We are constituted so that simple acts of kindness, such as giving to charity or expressing gratitude, have a positive effect on our long-term moods. The key to the happy life, it seems, is the good life, a life with sustained relationships, challenging work and connections to community." I credit my years in PR for helping me with having the courage to speak and engage with people. This hasn't always been the case by the way - I was that shy, nerdy looking kid at school with very few social skills under her belt. Years in sales, marketing and now PR has trained me on how to engage with a range of personalities including managing the difficult ones. In it all, I have in the very least, a contact, or way in to getting guidelines, directions or advice on just about every subject matter out there. As I mentioned before, I have also made some pretty incredible friends along the way. You should aim to be of benefit to the people you speak to on a day to day basis, and they the same to you. But it all starts with availing yourself to the process of connecting and being agreeable to the notion of shared learning.
4. Networking is an awesome teacher. And we are all here to learn right? If your relationships don't teach you a thing or two about the industry you work in, life hacks, how to nurture great friendships and more personal relationships, get you out of some tight spots or prep you for greater exploits - you are surrounded by the wrong crowd. Always look for the opportunity to learn and grow. Playful banter is great but productivity and progressive change is the ultimate. Networking will open you new doors if you take it for all the opportunities it can avail to you and the lessons it can teach you.
Cultivating new relationships can be the game-changer you are looking for. It will also teach you a lot about yourself - strength, weaknesses, shortcomings and the whole spectrum in between. There is always an opportunity to tap into new wisdom and knowledge, while simultaneously fostering a new sense of connection. The real test though, is to be able to reach out to someone you don't know and ask them for an opportunity to engage and hopefully a new friendship that may warrant new chapters on life's course. Are you in? Go on! Get out there and meet new people!
Your Personal Reinvention Coach