You don’t need a news flash to know that networking is an incredible tool in business. The question is, to what lengths should we go to meet in person now that social media is saturating our world?
When was the last time you met someone out for coffee to talk business? Have you struck up a conversation with the person sitting next to you at a training seminar lately? Who was the last person to receive your business card? How often do you take the time to update your contact list and reach out to those you’ve not heard from in awhile?
These are just a few questions you should ask yourself when it comes to gauging just how much and how often you are actively networking. Of course, not networking isn’t a crime. But, the benefits from it are incredible. According to Robby Slaughter, whose recent article in Inside Indiana Business discusses this exact topic, face-to-face meetings are invaluable and bring much more success to those who partake in them.
It is tempting to dismiss the advice that we should “always be networking.” If companies have jobs, shouldn’t they announce those opportunities publicly so they get the best possible candidates? Shouldn’t jobseekers be evaluated on the basis of their experience and their ability, not how chummy they are with decision makers? Since we can control the quality of our work, we want to be judged solely on our efforts. Networking feels like the opposite of working; it seems like meeting new people is more about currying favor than enhancing our ability to contribute.
Although this rationale is attractive, networking isn’t just about your own career. It’s also about how you promote the brand of your association. Networking is the most cost-effective marketing tool you have, because it’s based on the perception others have of you and your work. And although it costs very little to do, the results are priceless. Your reputation reflects on your organization, and vice versa. People are talking about you when you are not there.
When we network, we are making an impression. This is an important factor to recognize given the amount of communication shared electronically on a daily basis. When we meet in person one thing is certain: our knowledge, skills, intentions and professionalism are seen rather than read. And while this may seem a trivial point, let us take a moment to remind ourselves of the difference between personal perception and interpretation. When information is conveyed electronically, it’s easy to misunderstand or be misunderstood by others. And sadly, it’s also much easier to forget the conversation altogether. And this last point is an especially important one to remember.
Slaughter highlights this particular scientific aspect in his article:
There’s actually a scientific reason that “pressing the flesh” is so powerful. Psychologists have studied the way we interact in person, and unsurprisingly, it turns out we have a much stronger memory for faces than we do for names, professions or other factoids. Shake hands with someone today, and chances are good they will seem eerily familiar if you spot them at a shopping mall months or even years later. Almost all of us feel that we easily forget names but quickly recognize faces. You may not remember who they are or what was said, but you’re likely to know for the rest of your life that you’ve seen that face before. Leverage that science in your favor.
The importance for networking is a subject matter we have discussed on The Methodology Blog many times. If you’re looking for ways to integrate more networking into your office, consider reading posts that discuss networking before you need it, the etiquette of networking, making your contacts count, or even how to become a networking pro.