Networking. Dead or Alive?

So I recently came across a great blog post by an ex-colleague of mine who is Director of Content & Events at a vibrant Australian co-working space in Sydney. I’ve not been in touch with her for years & years but her LinkedIn blog post suggesting that networking may have had it’s day made me stop scrolling and start reading.

Many of you will know that I love networking. Don’t get me wrong I loathe the business owner who scatter-guns their business cards around a room of other such people. Speed networking, no thank you. The serial networker who is at every single networking event within a 20 mile radius. God knows where they get the time and money to network, let alone actually work. And don’t get me started on ‘hobby-ists’ (is that even a word? Probably not but you know who I mean) who don’t have the time or the money to be running their businesses but like the idea of it all the same.

Time is precious and yes, I’ve wasted a fair bit of it drinking terrible coffee whilst pretending to listen to a person I’ll probably never see again at some waste of time networking event. And this is the issue I think my Sydney-sider friend was addressing. The bit where you’re thinking ‘I don’t actually care about your business, it has absolutely no value to me and I wouldn’t recommend you in a million years’. I get that, I really do.

To be fair, the blog was talking less about the death of networking and more about moving it onto it’s natural next stage, collaboration. And on that I couldn’t agree more. Collaboration is king and something I’m hugely passionate about. In fact my next blog post is on the importance of collaboration and it’s place within your network.

What the blog post did do was make me think about my current networking activity. What do I get out of it? Is it worth it? Is it of value? Anything that makes me stop, think and evaluate my business is welcome. It’s so easy to be eyes down and protective of your business. It’s your baby after all.

So I stopped, I thought and I came to the conclusion that networking really does have a place within my business week. Not the naff networking we all hear about. I want a networking group that will nurture and nourish not just my business but me. Networking is part of the valuable time I actually spend working on my business and not in it. But if I’m going to invest that time (and money, you can’t expect great networking for the price of an Americano in a room full of total strangers) I need to be spending that time with a great bunch of people who can educate, advise and inspire me. I can say networking has a part in my business plan and growth because I’ve come up a with few hidden gems.

Thanks to a small mastermind group I’m a part of, a women’s only monthly meet up and a more specific mixed group full of creatives, my network is strong, healthy, challenging and supportive. I give perhaps 2 hours a week, or a full day out of my month. Not much really when you think about it.

I love running a business (I run it with my husband who is out on shoots a lot) but I don’t want to work in isolation all of the time. I don’t want to be selfish with my ideas and self indulgent with my challenges. I want to chat things though, work out solutions, action them and move on to the next exciting idea I have for my business. Myself and my husband work brilliantly together (yes, we really do) but sometimes you need to hear things from someone outside of the business, add a fresh pair of eyes. And hey, it’s not all about me, my business and my goals. I also want to listen to other people who are challenged and struggling and I want to offer advice and help them. But more than that, I want to share in success stories and raise a glass to someone who is thriving in whatever they are making a success of.

So long live networking. Just as long as it’s the right kind of networking and they have good coffee.