What’s the Value of Professional Networking?

professional networkingDont judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant.  -Robert Louis Stevenson Some business professionals will tell you that networking is their #1 marketing strategy, generating great fruit. Others will tell you that they want nothing to do with networking. This bifurcation of opinion typically comes from the success (or lack of success) the individual has with networking, or differences in personality, or a combination of the two. I remember early in my career when I had my first “real” performance evaluation as an employee. I had a relatively new (but seasoned) supervisor who I respected greatly. I had good rapport with him and felt like he would give me encouraging, helpful feedback. He had a good process so I was looking forward to my review meeting. As we sat down in the meeting he asked me some good questions about my goals and the materials I had prepared for him ahead of time. He affirmed my thought process as well as my plans and priorities. He had no significant critique or correction. Then he said something I will never forget. He said, “I want you to know that I think one of your greatest strengths and one of the greatest values you bring to our organization is your networking.” Frankly I was stunned. “Networking? Really?” I didn’t value networking much at the time. It was something I had learned to do mainly for survival and education. I knew it helped me personally, but I did not realize that it had value to the overall organization. In my immaturity I remember thinking, “Networking? Is that all you have to offer me? That’s my greatest value? Surely my other strengths and talents were more valuable than that?” Being the seasoned professional and leader that he was he knew the power and the importance of networking. I didn’t say much in our meeting after that statement. We wrapped up and I left his office. I was so disappointed with his “affirmation” that a couple days later I went back and met with him again. I wanted to know what he saw (which I was just doing intuitively) and why he thought that was valuable. That day he explained to me the importance of a strong, growing network. He explained to me how businesses and leaders grow through strategic relationships. He showed me how my network was a wealth of information, connections, and future opportunity. He told me that my network made me an important resource to our team and the entire organization. He helped me see how my network expanded my personal vision and how it not only contributed to my current success, but also to the future success of everyone I worked with. He told me that, because of my network and my networking abilities, I was the most resourceful person on our team. As he continued on without pause I just soaked it in. It not only affirmed and inspired me, it also gave me a great vision for networking as a core strategy for business and life. Today I can say without hesitation that one of my greatest strengths is networking. And it is one of the greatest contributors to my personal and professional success! Photo courtesy of http://www.bestlegalresource.com/you-never-know-where-your-next-client-or-referral-will-come-from/people-networking-event.

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