n. An extended group of people with similar interests or concerns who interact and remain in informal contact for mutual assistance or support.
v. To interact or engage in informal communication with others for mutual assistance or support.
Whichever way you look at it (noun, verb or otherwise), there’s one thing we often forget about when we consider the concept of networking … that word mutual. And, if there’s one thing we’ve learned in our years of running a women’s networking group, it is that effective networking needs to be a two way street.
The Kitchen Table Network developed somewhat organically into a business networking group for women. Neither of us has been involved in business ownership nor management and as such, neither has ever had to do much in the way of ‘networking’. We do, however, have extensive backgrounds in dealing with people ~ connecting, relating, organising ~ and, therefore, observing!
By nature of stereotyping and word association, networking, in my mind at least, meant firm hand shaking, swift card exchanges, power suit clad robots devoid of personality, a focus on performance. Quite a negative connotation, obviously. Rarely on people. Rarely on relationship. And rarely, in my mind at least, on that word mutual.
Developing a relationship built on mutual trust and respect requires time and commitment… Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither are solid business alliances. If your goal is continuity of business, then there must be continuity of attendance. Quite simply, a membership to a networking group is a waste of time and money unless you’re prepared to show your face, establish connections, and foster relationship. Not because there’s that little voice in the back of your head whispering ‘What’s in this for me?’… but because you understand the importance of dynamic exchange within a group and the need for open and fair circulation of business.
As you walk away from your next networking event, instead of asking yourself “How much business did I get out of this?” … Ask “How much did I give?” Chances are pretty darn good that, over time, the ‘getting’ will be directly proportionate to the amount of ‘giving’.
That’s just the way it works!
The Kitchen Table Network