Natural networking

We spent a wonderful few hours at the launch of the fifth annual Woodbridge Shuck Shellfish festival today and it was a joy. It highlighted three things for me:

  1. We are privileged to work with so many talented, hard-working, wonderful people who offer help, support and enthusiasm with a healthy dose of realism and reliability.
  2. We always think of these people when opportunities arise and have managed to join a number of our connections together for relevant projects and opportunities.
  3. There are a number of different way to build your network even if you’re not a natural networking pro.

When I worked in London, networking was not such an issue. We would connect with peers through conferences and projects, it was natural. Also the sheer volume of work occurring in London means there’s plenty for everyone.

Moving out to Suffolk, it’s very different. There are many more sole traders and micro-businesses. Everything is down to forging personal ties with people you can collaborate with and building a good reputation. Trust and reliability are crucial but it actually all starts with likability.

I am not obviously likable, let’s not beat about the bush. I’m awkward and aloof and I really struggle with small talk. My colleagues, Michaela and Jan, do not have this problem. They are very likable and so I take one or other of them with me whenever I can – or better, I ask them to go in my place.  There’s no point in fighting it. I try to smile more and be warm and fuzzy but it works far better to use their natural ability and skills in this area.

I cannot navigate a networking event. I find it too forced and superficial. I can approach people working on projects that excite and inspire me and offer to help outlining how we may be able to add value. It’s genuine. It comes from a good place and it’s usually well received, even if it doesn’t always end up in a commercial arrangement.

My point is that you don’t need to be a networking pro to network successfully. You just need to be open to new opportunities to work with new people and let your enthusiasm do the rest.

The same can be said for digital networking. Supporting local businesses and events and promoting them on our social media channels shows our followers that we’re not just about ourselves and keeps them informed on what’s going on in and around our world.

No man is an island after all.

HD