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Networking – what is is, why you should do it and how to map your current network

Networking is a phrase that is often bandied around but many of us wonder what it actually means! It can instil fear in many of us at the thought of large, formal, corporate networking events, Yes, that is one type of networking event, but there are also so many others that you are probably already doing on a daily basis without thinking about it.

Dictionary.com describe networking as “The action or processes of interacting with others to exchange information and develop professional or social contacts”

So it’s really just a conversation with someone to share knowledge!

What is a network?

Your network are the people around you, both personally and professionally. They can be family, friends, acquaintances, other business owners, people you’ve worked with in the past. Without thinking about it you will have honed a network of individuals around you that have now formed your network.

Your network is the support around you that help you to grow and prosper. From a professional standpoint they are people who help you in your career and/or business.

You probably interact with your network on a daily basis without thinking about it. Chatting to colleagues, checking in with your mentor, having a discussion on social media. All of this is networking! And probably something you actually DO feel comfortable doing (as you do it a lot!)

So why should you network?

Nurturing, building and expanding your network is key to helping you meet your professional goals – whether that be growing your business, landing a new job or changing industries. No matter where you work or what industry you are in, knowing the right people is really important.

Intentional networking is about being clear on those goals and having conversations with your network in order to get support, guidance or to have a discussion.

We all know our careers and businesses are not passive things. We have to work hard to keep them thriving and ticking over. Having goals and objectives of where we want to get to within a timeframe is crucial to us pushing forward and elevating.

How do I identify my current network?

The best way to do this is to draw up a network map like the following:

Focusing on one specific goal that will push your career or business forward, list out people in your network that you think could support and aid you to getting closer to your goals. Feel free to change and add to the categories that best describe your network.

Some prompts to ask yourself:

- How strong is my network?

- Are there any gaps? Within certain categories or overall?

- Are there relationships you need to connect in with?

So there you have it – some of the foundations in understanding your current network and networking. I have a few more pieces of advice on networking that I might add to a follow up blog post – so let me know if you’d find that interesting by emailing me!

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