Overview

I have been reflecting on business networking recently, having worked with several clients in the last few months where they have started thinking about joining professional networks as part of their careers and next jobs, but with diminishing resources and cuts have been so busy doing their job they haven’t had the chance to be part of these wider networks.

Wikipedia states that business networking is “a social network service that is focused solely on interactions and relationships of a business nature rather than including personal, non business interactions”. Whilst this is true up to a point, if we take a holistic approach to our networks, the majority might be business orientated, but they will also have learning, a carer and a social function. We know the truism of business that people do business with people they like and trust.

There are lots of opportunities out there to network like breakfast meetings and professional sector meetings that are part of the profession you work in; so many in fact you could spend all of your time doing these and little time doing the day job! There are also lots of virtual business networks, like the main go to site of Linked in. LinkedIn has become the world’s largest online professional networking site with over 380 million members in over 200 countries and territories. While LinkedIn has proven to be an incredible assist for anyone looking to make professional connections or find employment, there have been some concerns around the level of advertising and the focus on recruitment at the cost of wider networking.

For me, having a range of both professional and personal networks is important, especially in the world of self employment, where we don’t turn up to a workplace each day as part of a team. However, even when we have that facility, there are times when it’s really helpful to step outside the day to day team and network with a wider group of people.

The value of being part of different networks

Perhaps some of the main reasons to be part of wider networks are these:

  • Our own ongoing professional development is important, or as it’s sometimes known continuous professional development (CPD). CPD is the conscious updating of professional knowledge and the improvement of personal competence throughout your working life. Conscious implies that CPD is a state of mind, as well as a set of principles; it is a commitment to keeping up to date and continuously seeking to improve.
  • Networking gets us to think outside the box and reflect on what happens in a wider context in the field we work in beyond the walls of our own organisation
  • Wider networks can be really useful in today’s world where the expectation increasingly is that individuals are responsible for controlling and managing their own development and their ongoing career aspirations; I have read varying figures around up to 50-60% of people finding new roles through good networking

An example

As a working although imperfect example, I have a few key networks which are important to me. These are by no means exhaustive, but provide a picture of networks which cover a span of both professional and personal growth:

  • “AN DUIR” (Celtic term meaning heart of oak); a group of mainly self employed people who meet every 6 weeks to review progress in our work and us professionally and personally; really helpful group that have been meeting for years
  •  BUCKS COACHING GROUP: a group I have just started with a group of Coaches looking at coaching supervision, coaching theory and different approaches to marketing
  • “INSIGHTS GROUP”: a group I have just joined looking at using Insights Psychometric profiling for work with Teams; this will really help me look discuss different approaches to facilitation with other Facilitators working with teams in team building, Away Days, Team coaching etc.
  • I am looking at joining the Ridhwan retreat group which has a cohort of people who meet twice a year looking at aspects of their personal and spiritual growth

Review Tool

This PROFESSIONAL AND DEVELOPMENT NETWORKS REVIEW encourages you to review the mix of networks that you are part of to assess both your professional links and your ongoing professional and career development. The exercise asks you to map out the networks you are part of, along with gaps where you might need to expand to provide opportunities for networking for professional development and insight and for your future career development.