It’s always exciting to be part of something new! Alongside Mike Cross (formerly of Southern Cross IT) and Kerry Daley (of The Daley Hub), I’m therefore really delighted to be the team setting up a new networking group in Romsey, Hampshire. Just Networking Romsey will be holding our first breakfast meeting in March and we seem to be generating quite a lot of interest already.

As a group of seasoned networkers, we know from experience that networking works – sometimes quickly, sometimes in the longer term – but it works.  The reason it works is because people are prepared to share their knowledge, experience and expertise, building working relationships that become mutually beneficial.

If you know that already, you may not need to read on.  But, if you are new to networking or are yet to be convinced, please keep reading.  We have compiled our top five benefits of networking that we have experienced ourselves.

1. Generate business opportunities

Probably the reason that most people will spend time networking is to generate the kind of high-quality referrals their business needs.  It might be a direct lead from a network member or a referral to someone they know; either way, all leads are likely to be fairly warm ones because the people you network with have had the opportunity to get to know you and what you do. 

2. Raise your personal profile

Whether you are networking for yourself or on behalf of your employer, raising your profile is a big benefit of networking.  As an employee, networking could find you a promotion internally (or an exciting new opportunity with another organisation). As a ‘solopreneur’, being more visible will help you stay ahead of your competition in your network.  They will see you as being open to opportunities, whether collaborating on a project or inviting you to another network they are part of. 

3. Get a fresh perspective or a new idea

Networking gives us the opportunity to step away from the ‘daily grind’ and to reflect on our roles and organisations.  Whether our network is based on geography or on industry, there will always be opportunities to keep up with trends.  Coming away with a great new idea, however simple, could be as valuable as coming away with a new lead.

4. Build your confidence

Networking is a great way to build your own self-esteem and your confidence in your organisation.  It will also help you to hone your marketing messages based on the questions you are asked.  (Of course, practise makes perfect so give yourself a head start by jotting down and rehearsing your 60 second pitch.)

5. Be a positive influence (and benefit yourself)

Amongst the cut and thrust of business, it is important to remember to give something back occasionally. There will be people in our networking group who could benefit from our experience and to know that we have faced (and overcome) business challenges too.  Not only does it give you the satisfaction of having helped but the time may come when you will be the one needing advice and you’ve sown the seeds of a reciprocal, mutually trusting relationship.  Who doesn’t need a sounding board once in a while?

And finally… although we haven’t included this in our top five, making lasting friendships can often be a benefit of networking too. You may start out thinking of your network as potential customers, then start seeing them as colleagues (a bonus if you are self-employed) and finally realise that they have become friends.  Certainly, if you’re looking to get all of these benefits from networking, you do have to invest in it.  Your network will learn to trust you because you share, you reciprocate, and you show up regularly enough – not because you come with a “what’s in it for me” attitude.