The economy is booming. The phone won’t stop ringing. Deadlines abound and there is a constant stream of work coming down the pipeline. Does that sound familiar? It does for many of us. Business is good, which might make it easy to get complacent when it comes to finding time for one of the bedrocks of successful businesses and personal career growth: networking.
Your network is your golden ticket. Without a flourishing network that keeps you connected to your industry and colleagues, your next career move, project win or thought leadership opportunity gets that much harder to achieve.
What makes networking such a powerful tool?
The work we do every day revolves around relationships. Coworkers, colleagues, clients and vendors all contribute to our success, whether it be introducing us to the right person, passing along the right lead at the right time, or giving us the right platform. Relationships are developed through consistent networking, and it requires constant work to grow and maintain them. Even once we sow the right seeds, if we don’t constantly tend to them they might not bear the fruit we hope for. That means that even when we’re busy, it’s vital to carve out time to ensure that the relationships driving our careers and businesses aren’t being neglected.
Do you attend annual conferences for parking organizations such as IPMI and the National Parking Association? Industry conferences are tailor made for networking, with trade show floors, social gatherings and even meal breaks offering a perfect platform for establishing valuable connections. The Parking Industry Expo is coming up soon, and I hope you will join me to take advantage of the Speed Networking opportunity open to all attendees. As you do so, keep in mind that the value of networking goes above and beyond simply getting face time with a potential client. Let’s take a look at four ways we can benefit from growing a dedicated network.
- Generating leads: One of the most obvious benefits to knowing the right people is the opportunity to identify leads and win more work. While we often think that this means getting in front of potential clients, leads can also come from unsuspecting places. You never know when a fellow consultant or vendor you have a solid relationship with might pass along a vital piece of information that can lead to your next win. Remember as you grow your network that it’s crucial to give if you expect to receive. Developing a deep connection with someone is a symbiotic relationship: it’s important to show your value to them if you expect to receive value in return. So, when you are aiming to get an introduction to someone, do your homework and look for ways that you can bring value to the table and show them that you’re a person worth getting to know.
- Advancing your career: Whether you are looking for a way in to your dream company or seeking ways to elevate yourself in your current position, networking can help you achieve your goals. Findings ways to make yourself visible and put yourself in front of the right people in meaningful ways can build your reputation and open up career opportunities. After all, it’s hard to be known as an expert in your field if no one knows who you are.
- Gaining fresh perspectives: Potential clients are not the only people you should focus your network on. Your colleagues and peers can be an incredibly valuable resource to exchange ideas with. It can be easy to insulate yourself if you’re not connecting with others, and it’s a lot harder to innovate if the only people you expose yourself to are the people you see every day. By developing relationships with people in your industry and even outside of it, you expose yourself to new ideas, fresh perspectives, evolving best practices and the latest trends. All of these things can help move you toward the previous two goals in surprising and unexpected ways.
- Giving back: Would you be where you are today if someone in your network hadn’t mentored you, opened the door to important networking contacts and helped you find the right opportunities? As you develop your own network, you will have the opportunity to do the same for others, helping them create their own connections and discover the value of networking.
Growing a network of meaningful contacts requires time, patience, and most importantly effort. Getting the right introductions is always just the start, and should be viewed as an opportunity to form a lasting relationship, not an invitation to instantly ask for favors. Taking the time to develop your network is worth the time investment, even when it seems like opportunities are everywhere. Eventually that may not be the case, and if you have invested the time and energy it deserves, your network can pay dividends in the future by helping carry you past future obstacles.
Whether you are a networking pro or looking to make your start, I hope to see you in March at Parking Industry Expo’s Speed Networking session, sponsored by Watry Design. You never know who is going to know the right person to help you get the next win or reach your next career milestone, and who that person ends up being just might surprise you.