Ever wondered why you should be going to that seminar on risk management or that evening social event with a guest speaker? It’s because networking is an essential part of your job, whether you know it or not.
Will Kintish expands on this in his book Business Networking: The Survival Guide. He explains the 6 reasons why you should invest time and effort into getting networking right.
1. Networking is not selling
Put that thought out of your head. In fact, it’s the opposite. Networking is about spotting opportunities, so you want to spend time asking questions about the person you are talking to and their business, to try to see whether they have any problems that you can help with.
In fact, in a prime example of networking gone wrong I was on the receiving end of a ‘sell’. It was at a PMI conference and I was chatting to Clark A. Campbell, author of The One Page Project Manager. Another man came over. He talked about himself and his work for what felt like a long time. Then when he excused himself Clark said to me, “That was a missed opportunity for him.” He had had the opportunity to talk to Clark – an expert on project communication and reporting, and me – an expert on social media for project managers and although he knew who we were and what we had done he asked us nothing beyond that. He didn’t get anything out of the conversation (and neither did we).
2. Networking builds relationships
And there is nothing project managers need more than good relationships with others at work. “Spending time on building a relationship could deliver results in the future,” Kintish writes. If you have been project managing for a while you’ll know how important it is to cultivate relationships with stakeholders past and present, and my own research for Customer-Centric Project Management shows that good working relationships improves the perception of project success as well.
3. Networking is expected
This is my favourite reason. “Even if your role isn’t explicitly to bring in new business or to market the company,” Kintish writes, “you are probably expected, as most people are, to meet new people and understand the market place as part of your role.”
This is definitely the case for project managers. You need to quickly pick up information about the new project and how do you do this? Through talking to people.
4. Networking is good for you
Kintish says that it’s a way to learn more about the business, understand the industry better and hear about the challenges faced by your contacts. If you’re managing project stakeholders, this is important as you have to deal with the ‘what’s in it for me’ approach that many of them will take.
5. Networking can further your career
Many, many jobs aren’t advertised, so if you want to be in with a chance of getting that internal promotion or taking a role outside your company as a step up, you have to network to find out about them. People recommend people they like, so while you might not have met the person you will be working for in the future you might have met one of their contacts who could put you forward for that dream job.
6. Networking is a virtuous circle
“If done right, meeting more people leads to more business and career opportunities, which leads to meeting more people and more business, and so on,” he writes. It might not feel like it now, but you never know what doors are going to open in the future, so it’s worth operating as if that next useful contact is round the corner, as they probably are.
What are your experiences of networking? Let me know in the comments.