Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Networking - Value & Outcomes

This is part 2 in the series on Networking, as written by Dana Cooper, MBA, CAE (Executive Director, Orthotics Prosthetics Canada)

Why is networking so valued?

During peer networking, there is someone within that room that has something each participant wants or needs.  It is lie a mystery game...they just have to find who has that something.  Your role as an association is to facilitate those connections.

  • It is energizing and fun.  Enjoyment provides as much value to members as the information they obtain.  Don't forget that!
  • Fulfils our most basic social need.  We are human animals...we need our pack...our social connections are important and define our personal and professional self.
  • Face-to-face communications is the most personal and the most effective manner for engaging.
  • Networking gives you solutions to problems.  You get answers to questions...sometimes you get this before you even know you have a problem or question.
  • Networking gives you comparables.  It gives you context on where your organization is in terms of processes and functions in relation to other associations.
  • Networking gives you allies.  "Been there, done that" should be the motto for association networking events.  To paraphrase a famous and frequently misrepresented quote, "Everything you are or will be doing as an association has already been (or is being) done by another association."
  • Build your personal 'brand'; career development.  Networking is that first impression.  What can people expect from you?  Sources suggest that 70-80% of all jobs are found through networking.  Networking is also a valuable source to find viable candidates to hire.
  • Networking is (should be!) a low risk environment.  Your association's gatherings are attended by like-minded people with many things in common including being in the same industry and having similar needs and challenges.
What are the possible outcomes of networking?

The outcomes from networking are very much personal and dependent on the individual.  However, it is helpful to understand what the potential outcomes are from networking.  I have broken those down into three categories, each an evolution from the preceding.

Three Categories of Networking Outcomes:
  • Natural
  • Purposeful
  • Organic
The minimum result of networking is that you make acquaintances.  This is the natural outcome of networking.  The majority of those acquaintances will stay just that...acquaintances.  Interactions extend no further than future association events.  The benefit is that acquaintances can walk into the event and see familiar faces that can immediately and comfortably be engaged.

The purposeful outcome is an increase in value obtained from networking, and occurs when interaction takes place following the networking event to obtain more detail on a professional matter that was identified during networking.  One party has experience or resources to provide the other to assist in managing a challenge.

The organic outcome involves increased social risk, but results from making a strong personal and/or professional connection.  The organic outcomes are broken down further into three possibilities:  
  • Coffee mates:  these are people that you have made a professional connection with due to similarity in roles or organizations and with whom you want to maintain a connection.  You would have coffee with these connections several times a year for the purposes of discussing ongoing challenges and issues.
  • Lunch/Drink mates:  these are people you have made both a personal and professional connection with and are characterized by the increased social risk of lengthier get-togethers.
  • Friends:  this is when you have made a strong personal connection with the individual and where communication extends beyond the profession.  At this stage there is increased openness and relaxation and there is an expectation of enjoyment when together.
Stay tuned for Part 3 of this series; which offers 10 tips for networking success!

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