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Natural Networking

Feeling comfortable, confident, and prepared for networking is such a valuable skill to develop and hone throughout your career. It’s important as you return to work as it can help you refine what you are looking for and open new opportunities. Once back, building your internal and external networks can really help your career progression. In a recent webinar for members of our Professional Network, Rachel Halsall, Executive Coach, shared her thoughts on Natural Networking with us. Here Angharad Boyson, Women Returners new Coaching and Relationship Manager, summarises this session. 

Rachel’s definition of networking really cuts to the heart of it: The fastest and most enjoyable way to collaborate and share information.

Networking styles 

Using John Timperley’s four broad categories of why we network, Rachel has developed four styles of networking: 

  • Business networker – you network to win business, build, and develop your career. The downside of this style is that you may not nurture relationships unless they consistently feel useful. 
  • Relationships Connector – you find it easy to develop rapport and regularly contact your network. But you might be slightly slower to ask for business when the opportunity arises. 
  • Ideas Connector you enjoy connecting with people who can add new ideas or fresh debate and like to swap thoughts on an intellectual or technical level. However, you don’t necessarily stay connected with people whose thinking you believe is not up to date. 
  • Learning Connector – you connect for personal development and with mentors or teachers, although you may have little time for those in other areas and you are not necessarily applying or sharing your learning. 

Rachel suggests identifying your own style and then purposely mixing that up, so that you try different styles.   

Different networks 

As well as different categories and styles of networking, there are different networks to develop. Herminia Ibarra, author of Act Like a Leader, Think Like a Leader, says these are: 

  • Operations – internal network that helps you get things done 
  • Personal – people that help you to grow and develop personally and professionally 
  • Strategic – those that help you to generate strategic ideas, offer support; typically external. 

Rachel’s take on this separation of networks is about being able to conserve energy. If you have just one hour a month for networking, either divide this evenly across the three networks, or rotate each month where you expend your effort. It is important not to drop that personal network when you are busy. Whilst that is the obvious temptation, this network is just as important as the others and could be the one that provides you with that all important re-energising. By dividing your attention across all three equally, you reap the benefits of all three.  

What to ask for 

When we are networking, it can feel hard to know exactly what it is we are asking for. Rachel suggests that this can be divided into: 

  • Knowledge – information, informed opinion, different perspective 
  • Introduction – person, business, sector, membership 
  • Recommendations – keep me in mind if….  

Networking when you’re time short!  

One of the biggest hurdles to effective networking is thinking that we do not have the time. Rachel gives us some tips on how to spend just 2-15 minutes to enhance your network: 

  • A 2 minute phone call to book in a 15 minute catch up 
  • 5 minutes per week to choose your target 
  • A 15 minute catch up/zoom/phone call 
  • An information sharing call and walk 
  • How are you? 
  • What are you seeing from where you sit? 
  • Have you come across anything useful? 
  • A call that holds us both to account 

Top tips 

Rachel closed with her top tips: 

  • Generously share your network – who can you introduce in your network 
  • Be useful (if in doubt, ASK) 
  • Build trust, and most importantly … 
  • Begin – look at those 2–15-minute tips and pick just one to begin today!