Updated: Apr 30
This has got to be one of my favourite topics to talk about. Not only is networking the cornerstone of any career success, but it is also what has helped sail me through motherhood (I honestly don’t know how I would have coped without my family and friends). Below is a list of positive reasons why I think networking is beneficial for not just your career, but also your family life.
We all have personal blind spots and we all have subjects that we are completely unaware of. Here is where a coach/trainer or mentor/a role model can come in. A coach can help you gain new insights on a topic new to you, and guide you through it. And a mentor or a role model can help point out your professional or personal blindspots and provide ideas on improvement. These types of leaders provide skills that can be applied in areas of your life that may need developing which in turn will lead to more positive feedback and experience. Surprisingly (but not really) when I became a mum I started to view my mother as a "mum" role model. She's raised 4 children so has been where I currently am 4 times, she also knows me very well. Albeit things were different in the 90s, I have realised that a lot of the gems she drops are applicable for my own child, so I pay attention when she is sharing suggestions. Equally as important is my line manager, he (yes he) couldn't be more different from me in terms of background, but he is also someone whom I credit a lot of my professional development to as a working mother, and hold him close to me. No one is a finished product and we all need guidance so, having someone in our corner who will help push us to new heights, can help us experience a more frequent and better sense of satisfaction.
Let's be honest, as mothers, generally it can be very easy to use parenthood as an excuse for not following through on something, or wriggling out of an event. But having someone who will specifically hold you accountable for your actions, can switch that up real quick. Usually, this person is your boss, but you can also select someone else for activities outside of your day-day job or even for a side-hustle you are working on. The science is that when you commit to reporting to someone that you will be doing something (anything) the chances of you actually carrying out that activity increase than if you were to "keep it to yourself" (1).
I have an accountability partner with whom I follow The Miracle Morning ™ routine with. Every morning by 5 am we must check in with each other with a video showing us standing up straight and drinking a glass of water. If either of us hasn’t heard from the other by 05:10, then we call up their phone and give them a good telling off (like a child). We have been practising this since the beginning of this year no matter what (whether it's COVID-19, Ramadan, etc) and we can both say we are pleased with how it has encouraged us to follow through with waking up at 5 am. You can have an accountability partner for anything, i.e. a gym buddy, a study partner, a business partner, you name it! The chances of you seeing to your promises skyrocket the moment you have someone to report to.
We have all heard the saying, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. And knowing some reputable people can shine well on you. Brands, artists, and influencers collaborate with each other all the time and it works to their benefit. But you don't have to have as big of a profile to practise this principle. Whether it’s exposure to an employer, an opportunity or buying customers, having relationships that you can leverage to help sell yourself can help you earn trust more easily. Think what it must signal to an employer when you are able to provide them with a reference from a company director or a well-respected individual, or what it must signal to a potential buyer as they are reading through customer reviews of your service/product (even though you won't have a close relationship with all your customers, their feedback can still make a difference). When I was on maternity leave, I started selling items on eBay to make some extra money and used an account that I ran whilst at University. Although I had taken many years from selling since my University days, the 200+ positive reviews gained from all those years ago made it very easy to gain trust from customers and I started making sales almost immediately after listing my items.
You will not always be around when your name comes up in discussion, but having an ally in the conversation who will advocate for you and the value you offer can help with building your reputation, and your business. My sister told me a story of when someone tried to bash her work competency in front of a supervisor whilst she was not around. Luckily for my sister, her good friend happened to be present and stepped in and corrected what had been said. Imagine if the team leader had walked away believing what Mr Sassy had said and how that would have hurt her reputation?
Having someone in your corner that will sing your praises can lead to great opportunities that may have been closed off to you. There are also other ways a friend's support can be invaluable and I have listed them within a post I wrote last month titled How to deal with friends that don't support your business idea.
Friends can be a huge confidence booster when it comes to anxiety, worry, uncertainty, disappointment, or any other paralysing emotions. They know us and remind us of our great qualities, which can keep you believing in yourself. Honestly being surrounded by people who love us to bits will do wonders for our mental and emotional health, putting us in a good position to perform the activities we need to carry out.
I don’t just mean someone who can get you into a private party, but someone who can provide you access to things of value. This can take many forms and include; giving you a heads up on an upcoming event, opening a door that can lead to business, insights on an industry trend, knowledge about a specific product that all the top dogs are using... The list goes on.
Having trusted friends/colleagues in your corner who can help widen your pool of resources is undoubtedly valuable for your business/brand/career and these relationships should be looked after.
The road to success doesn't have to be a lonely one, and having a great network can help your dream to grow and blossom.
The most important element is to be sincerely interested in the people you keep around you, as these are real relationships with mutual benefits (plus people can always suss when you are trying to manipulate them). My best advice is to treat them as friends; remember their children's names, their personal interests, go to their children’s parties, buy their kids birthday presents, help them out with their problems, check upon them. I know it is hard to keep in touch with people when you have a family to look after, but chances are they will understand and appreciate your effort and will probably remember you when a good opportunity comes up.