Christmas is here, and it's a great time for many, and with the new year fast approaching, how can we prepare better for next Christmas? The value of a network can help us all combat loneliness, and increase our opportunities.

In this article, the first of three, addressing networking, we’re going to let you in on why we invest so much time in building and maintaining our network.

So, what are the benefits of networking, and why do we do it?

Business Connections

If you’re part of a business network, then you’ll know it’s all about strengthening connections. We can’t be masters of everything. By having a diverse network, we can find experts to advise and help us. Christmas is about giving, not receiving, and this rule applies to networking too. Through regular contact with your network, and by finding chances to assist them, you can build a foundation of a mutually beneficial network.

Creativity

Your network can be inspiring, and full of fresh ideas. By talking to a variety of people, from different industries and backgrounds, you can get a new perspective, and be filled with creativity. Fresh ideas can help you stimulate growth in your business, and approach your work from a new angle. Similarly, by sharing your ideas, you can build a reputation as an innovator.

Personal Opportunities

In this day and age, people rarely  stay with a company for the entire span of their career. By networking, you can open yourself up to new opportunities. We’re not saying you should job hunt every time you network, but these chances allow you to learn and grow. With the right opportunity, you can move, grow, and learn. Who knows, maybe you’ll return to your old employer, armed with even more skills. Either way, it’s good to network.

Knowledge exchange

Business practices vary from company to company. Some SMEs have found a way that works for them when they are in the first steps of their journey. But will these processes continue to work as the company grows? By talking to your network, you have an opportunity to discuss best practices that work in a variety of set ups. It’s also a great chance to learn about the business techniques of your peers, and to find out more about the latest industry trends. The bigger the network, the wider your access is to new and valuable information.

Resource Sharing

We’ve all been there. We get a new project and we’re understaffed. The scope of the project doesn’t require a new hire. So, what do we do? Working with agencies can be tricky. Will they understand your business model? Will they be abreast the latest trends to help you reach your business goals? Are they trustworthy? Through your network, you will be exposed to experts, and good recommendations, thus allowing you to take on projects quickly without the need to worry about staffing.

Answers to your Burning Questions

If you have a strong network of expert professionals, you can trust that someone will have the answer to your most difficult of questions. And, if there’s no answer, you’ll have the chance to bounce ideas around and take steps to solve the problems you encounter in your business, and personal career.

What next?

So now we’ve addressed a few reasons why we should network, let’s discuss how to do it.

As beneficial as it is to network, for both your personal and professional life, the truth is that not everyone feels comfortable networking. For some, the idea of talking to a stranger and exposing yourself to new environments can create a feeling of dread.

How can you prepare better for a networking event?

A good start is to plan ahead, and have a few points of discussion in mind. Are you looking for knowledge, additional resources, or just to expand your social and professional cirlces? Conversations should be easy, rather than forced, so make a list of points, and be ready to truly listen to what the others have to say.

Don’t just talk about work!

Be human. Nobody likes being bombarded with work related questions. Get to know the other person. Do you share a few hobbies? Why are you both at the event? Can you relate on a personal level? Being yourself can make you more approachable and, therefore, enable you to really benefit from your networking events.

The whole idea is just to get the conversation going. You don’t need to discuss everything in the 5 minutes you have to talk. Open up the topics, and allow the exchange of knowledge and ideas to flow. The dialogue should continue over time, so remember, the event will not be the end, it’s only the beginning.

Oh, and don’t forget to bring your business cards – it helps you to swap your contact details easily.

Which networks?

Now we’ve spoken about why we network, in the next two articles we’ll be giving you some insight into a couple of our own networks and what benefit they bring to us.

Don’t be alone this Christmas, reach out to your networks and make the most of them.

Antologic. Commending communication_

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