Networking – Long term investment or waste of time?

I hear this debated frequently. There are so many variables to consider, but having been a complete and utter sceptic turned convert, I have been at both ends of the spectrum, and thought I would share my story with you.

I’ve always been outgoing, a people person, and my work has always put me in front of clients in some way.  However, on  joining a new company in a sales position a few years ago, my boss asked me if I wanted to go to a networking breakfast at the local chamber of commerce at 7.30 the following morning.  I’d never been to one of these before, so wasn’t sure what it was all about, but being new to the company, in need of customers and wanting to impress, I accepted.  For the rest of the afternoon and the evening that followed, I couldn’t do anything else but stress about this ‘networking’ meeting I had agreed to attend.  What would I say? Who would I talk to? No doubt they’d all know each other and I knew nobody.  Would I have to stand up and talk?

The morning came and I’d like to say I was alright when I finally got there, but I wasn’t.  I was right; everyone did already know each other, each in their little huddles;  gatekeepers armed with small cups of coffee.  So I spent the whole time pretending to look at emails on my phone.  Breakfast arrived and I bumbled my way through my 60 second talk about the firm I was representing, stumbled blindly through the rest of the meeting and left promptly when the meet was closed, having made no real impression at all.

Thereafter, every time my boss asked me to go to one of these meetings my heart would sink, but I’d pretend I was up for it, knowing I needed to make it work, somehow. It never really did.

Fast forward and I am now in a new role, again needing clients in area where I have no contacts. ”Better give this networking lark another go then” I thought….

(click here to read Part 2 of this blog)