The word ‘networking’ is a bit yuck, right? People hear it and immediately want to take a shower. We imagine suits working a room, handing out business cards (do they still exist?) and generally people trying to make themselves sound smart and look good. There has never been a more important time to surround yourself with people who are smarter than you or have different life experiences and views. Successful people are making time for dynamic conversations and are proactively looking to learn from others. It’s time to reframe why we network.
For networking-phobes, COVID-19-imposed restrictions on face-to-face meetings may have come as a welcome relief. Networking events were cancelled, we haven’t been attending public programs or conferences, and run-ins at airport lounges are a long-distant memory. The downside is that our networks probably aren’t in great shape. In fact, a study conducted last year found that our professional and personal networks shrunk by close to 16 per cent – or by more than 200 people – during the pandemic.
Icky as it might feel to you, now is the time to dedicate energy into rebuilding our networks. Our personal and professional success have a lot to do with who we’re hanging out with, who we’re talking and listening to, and the conversations that we’re having. It’s not about meeting the ‘right’ people who will help us find our dream job (though that can happen!). Here’s what networking is really about:
- Inspiration. People are feeling pretty uninspired and fatigued at the moment. When you hear that someone in your network is doing something amazing, it can be really energising and can push you to lift your game.
- Self-improvement. We can absorb so much from the people around us. A diverse network helps us forge connections that can make us better colleagues, leaders, friends, parents, peers or mentors. There’s never been a more important time to connect with people who are different to us.
- Learning. Research tells us that people who dedicate five hours a week to learning reap so many rewards (for instance, they’re happier, less stressed and more productive – and, one can assume, more knowledgeable). Everyone has some kind of wisdom to impart. The more diverse and robust your network, the more you stand to learn.
- Thinking. Your network is about surrounding yourself with people who are going to challenge your beliefs and hold a mirror up to your values. These are the people who will give you different information and aspects to consider.
Having an educated, inspiring, diverse and dynamic network is about stretching your mind. It’s about inspiration. It’s about giving you opportunities to have conversations that you might not otherwise have.
What could you do – and who could you connect with – to bolster your network today?
– The Coach Place Global
Image by Dylan Gillis
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