Networking is everything in business
Eat, Drink & Succeed
Research by Roy M Broad shows an average of 25% of sales turnovers were linked to networking and 82% of people answering the survey thought that networking was an important part of their marketing. (Broad, 2012.) This shows how big of an impact networking has on our business culture. Carefully planned business ideas, a great product, or strong professionality is not enough to make a successful business. It is known that networking and network are a big part of the business. However, it turns many times that we forget how huge potential they have. It is easy to stay comfortable with our small circle and focus on just our things, but that makes our thinking concise.
What is networking
Networking is all about meeting and forming contacts with other people and increasing awareness of news and trends in the field of business the person is in. These business relationships are used for identifying, creating, and forming business opportunities such as expanding to international markets or finding new job opportunities. (Kagan, 2021
The social networks can be seen as social capital and the professionals use them for expanding their circles of acquaintances. It is about the people person knows, the relationships formed, and the actions people do with and for each other. (Kagan, 2021)
Networking is not simple, and people find it uncomfortable
If the business would get more profitable by the power of networking, as Board’s (2012) shows, it is something every entrepreneur, employee, or business owner should do more. However, Sander’s article in The Conversation says that most people find networking uncomfortable (Sander, 2018). According to Sander (2018), the experience of networking has been compared even to going to the dentist or to public speaking. Those actions are found very unpleasant for many people. (Sander, 2018.)
For introverts or shy people, networking could feel like a punishment while it can sound fun and easy, especially for outgoing, social people who are in their element when they are surrounded by people. But networking isn’t so simple and easy considering about natural action model of a human being. According to Sander (2018), studies had shown that we have the tendency to lean on those people we already know, even in a networking event, when we’re supposed to be creating new connections. (Sander, 2018.)
Sander (2018) also points out, that some people feel dirty to use networking to make careers better. When we go to the value discussion, it is easy to understand why networking can be very unpleasant and uncomfortable. If there need to be actions against to own values, it is understandable that there is not going to be sustainable networking, meaningful connections, or true will to make a strong relationship.
But it is so, that if there is to will to improve business by networking, it needs to be dirty and superficial? According to Schwartz (2015), the most important thing about networking is to be willing to help others (Schwartz, 2015). During her successful career from volunteering work to being the event coordinator in the White House. Whenever someone needed help, Schwartz was there willing to lend a hand and through this, she connected with many people and left a mark on them. (Schwartz, 2015.)
Afterwards, when these people would come across a task that would need to be done, they would think about Schwartz, and she would get more and more opportunities. It’s important to realize that when you’re helpful to others you build bridges that go both ways. “How can I help”, is the phrase Schwartz tells everyone should use much more in order to connect with people and create their network. “Don’t think about what others can do for you, rather what you can do to others. That is the core of all networking”. (Schwartz, 2015)
Constantly helping others may sound heavy and it can easily be, but it can also bring deeper meaning and purpose to networking. When it is not just about what another person can do for you but what is your own effort to help someone else, networking starts to feel more humane. This can help people who do not feel networking so comfortable, more interesting. After all, there is an inner need to feel being valuable and help others, so why wouldn’t do it by business also?
When it comes to true will to help others, it is good to always think twice before promising to do something. Instead of offering to provide the whole marketing plan as pro bono, offer to brainstorm ideas for it or proofread the later versions. This will ensure that helping does not take too much time from other work or personal resources. Supporting and motivating another’s work process, even just partially participating in it, is sure to provide a place on the list of good guys
Basics of Networking
According to Schwartz (2015), there are some very basics about networking. She points out, that we all should already know but might not remember to think about the importantness of networking. According to her, one of these basic things is always having your business card within reach. It gives a very unprofessional image if you can’t seem to find your business card when the situation requires it. Therefore, you should always put your business cards somewhere you’ll get them quickly and easily when needing one. (Schwartz, 2015.)
As a business owner, entrepreneur, or person who wants to network, it is good to have a business card always with, but nowadays it feels dated. When there are meetings, business events or trade shows it is definitely crucial to have a business card easy to find. Otherwise, during this digitalization in business culture, it is not that disturbing to not have a business card with you.
Digitalization and social media have made our LinkedIn or other social media profiles our business card and it feels weirder to not have a LinkedIn profile instead of not having a card with you. Therefore, smartphones take a place of business cards, because you can easily check other person’s profiles and send the connection request right away. Also, if there is a trade show and you have a plastic contact information card, you can ask another person to take a picture from that.
The second important thing about networking is to be present in the events, but only in those, you are invited in (Schwartz, 2015). Many of us might think it would be a good idea to crash at an event, but the truth is it’s always better to be invited. Schwartz (2015) says in her book it’s never a good idea to crash at an event because you will most likely get caught and lose all creditability. Your creditability is something you should cherish and hold on to because that makes you trustworthy in front of possible business opportunities and thus opens more doors. Keep in mind, if you’re not on the guest list, you should not go. (Schwartz, 2015.)
When you get invited to an event and you have prepared yourself for that. According to Schwartz (2015), this can be achieved by making overall research about the event and the people invited. It’s crucial to have information about the people you’re going to meet there and what are their interests. It’s also very important to understand what type of event it’s going to be; is it a formal or nonformal event. This information helps to prepare what you are going to be talking about, who you should try to talk to, and what expectations you could have about the event. You will be giving a much better impression of yourself when you talk about topics that are well fitted to the type of event. (Schwartz, 2015.)
The first impression is everything
The first impression you make happens before you have the chance to open your mouth. People around you will judge you based on what you’re wearing and what is the overall appearance you have. It’s not just about clothes, which are very easy to change to fit the situation, but it’s also about how you carry yourself. Do you radiate positive energy, and do you carry yourself with confidence? When you feel good, you look good, and you attract other people. Therefore, it’s important to go to these events with a positive attitude and a curious mind. Show that you’re interested in other people and how they are doing. This gives the impression that you are easy to talk to, believe in yourself, and are a companion in a conversation. The most important thing is to smile, it really makes a difference. (Schwartz, 2015.)
About the clothes, it’s very important to find out the dress code before the event. It’s very awkward to go to a strict business event in a cocktail dress or to a cocktail party in casual everyday workwear. The dress code is usually announced in the invitation either in written or oral form. If not, you can always check with the organizer. When you dress according to the event, you’ll fit in just right. Your overall appearance will tell others how you take care of yourself. Always show up, with a neat look; do your hair, do your face, and make sure the clothes you’re wearing are clean. (Schwartz, 2015)
Emilia Parikka’s experience is a good example of this when she visited in Yves Saint Laurent store: “First, I went in Paris, and I had done my face, my hair was up on a ponytail, and I had chosen the most fashionable clothes I owned. All the people working at the store wanted to serve me, I got to see all bags and try on as many shoes as I wanted. Another time I went to a YSL store in the US. I had not prepared to go there, so I was wearing an old broken hoodie, my hair was not done, and I had ripped jeans on. The servers kept following me like I was about to steal something. They did not offer to help me, not even once.” The way you look really makes a difference.
This experience and Schwartz’s point are crucial to think how much our outfit or first expression can make damage. From this point of view, networking feels very superficial and cold. On the other hand, same with the business card: Is this an old way to think about networking when it comes to clothes. Of course, formal events and how to carry yourself are an important part of being present, but how much do these superficial things take a place from focus to the real connection?
Schwartz (2015) points out that there should not always be trying to connect yourself. It can also help other people connect with each other. If you know A and C that would benefit from knowing each other, be the B in the middle and introduce them to each other. When their cooperation turns out to be beneficial, they will thank you and remember you when they come across someone you could need in your life. She reminds us that all bridges we build eventually benefit us too. (Schwartz, 2015.) Schwartz also suggests that asking your friend to introduce you to a person they would like to meet, and you already know. This can work both ways and you could introduce your friend to someone you know, and they could benefit from meeting. (Schwartz, 2015.) This is a good way to do networking if you find networking difficult when the focus goes from your networking to helping others.
Every interaction is an opportunity
Every interaction is an opportunity. Every human interaction we have has the potential to build our network and help us find new opportunities. (Schwartz, 2015.) Schwartz highlights the importantness of every interaction by her stories. She joined the nonprofit organization called Junior League and at one beneficial event organized by the organization, she mentioned how she was looking for new challenges in the media industry. Turned out there was a worker from Marshall Fields who remembered their PR department was looking for a new specialist. This woman connected Schwartz with the head of a department, and she was hired. Another example she gave was about a woman selling cupcakes and how she wrote an article about it that eventually got published in Times Out Chicago and Mary Guzzard has shared her article with probably everyone she knows. Schwartz found out about the opportunity at the white house through her studies. Because she was so well connected and active with everyone and especially with one lecturer who told her about the opportunity and suggested she really should apply. (Schwartz, 2015.)
Always a good start for networking is to enter on taking care of old connections. Who are the ones most important connections and when is the last you have connected with them? Maybe a phone call check-up round on old friends could be beneficial? Or maybe to start from a little and go throw the status of old coworkers on LinkedIn.
What Schwartz can demonstrate well through her examples of different ways people have used their networks to succeed is very eye-opening about how we have so many opportunities around us waiting for us to take them. It’s so important to write down the network you already have and see how you or someone you know could benefit from it.
It is important to remember that if a person’s future plans, goals, and dreams are unclear, it will be hard to benefit from networks. When knowing where to reach, it is easier to get there. Being open and honest will do nothing but help everyone to connect with the right people at a right time. Sometimes it might be clever to give a moment for writing down what would be the dream collaboration or job offer for different parties of the networking situation.
Where to start? Remember these basic steps:
- Take care of the quality of old connections.
- Remember personal limits but be willing to help.
- Take care of personal hygiene and check appearance from clothes to the hairstyle.
- Think about how to share contacts smoothly and efficiently.
- Make sure that social media channels are up to date. Possibly make arrangements to distinguish channels for work and leisure.
- Make a list of whom to network with and why. Think about how and where this would be possible.
- Know the direction where to head to. Write down future plans, goals, and dreams.
Written By: Emilia Parikka, Jemina Laitinen & Iida Luhtala
Broad, R. 2012. Networking Performance: A study of the benefits of business networking in the West Midlands. Thesis. Published November 2012. Read 6.8.2021. https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/17307679.pdf
Kagan, J. 2021. Networking. Article of Investopedia. Published 9.10.2021. Read 21.10.2021.
Sander, L. 2018. Research shows networking is painful, but it can be a lot better. Article of The Conversation. Published 28.5.2018. Read 6.8.2021. https://theconversation.com/research-shows-networking-is-painful-but-it-can-be-a-lot-better-96854
Schwartz, L. 2015. Eat, Drink & Succeed. Climb Your Way to the Top Using the Networking Power of Social Events. Helsinki: Keskisuomalainen Oyj Aikakauslehtiryhmä.