Are the usual networking benefits just not getting you going? Do you find that you just can’t get motivated? Maybe you’re thinking about the wrong benefits.
I'm sure you keep reminding yourself that networking gets you:
- Increased visibility
- Branding and marketing benefits
- Access to information
- New connections
- And expanded opportunities.
But after a long day, or a long week, maybe you just find it hard to drag yourself out of the office to that networking event across town. Or you keep meaning to start a regular meet-up with a small group. Or you want to reach out regularly to your business contacts.
If the “usual” incentives aren’t getting you moving, here are some more reasons to invest the time.
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Here are five benefits of networking that you probably never expected and maybe come as a surprise:
- A bigger brain
- Expert status
- And a "customized" life.
That’s lot to expect from something as simple as building business or professional relationships but there’s research backing up every one of these networking benefits.
Multiple studies have shown that social connections are vital to our happiness and well-being. These studies may be researching family, church, or personal connections, but your brain doesn’t know the difference between a business or professional connection and a purely “social” one.
You can get social interaction almost “on demand” through business networking events. From your chamber of commerce to MeetUp.com to any one of the many leads club or networking groups available in person or on line, you can get as much interaction as you need.
Some introverts are going to read this and roll their eyes. Networking doesn’t make you happy… it makes you tired.
Yes, I know. I think a mistake that many introverts make is that they think that feeling tired means they failed. That they didn’t enjoy the event. And that means they think they don’t like networking.
But here’s a massive secret that no other extrovert will tell you: Networking makes them tired, too!
I’m beat after a full day of working and then a networking event. When I get home, I’m DONE. But I know that it’s a happy tired, especially if I made or strengthened connections that will benefit me in the long run.
An admittedly small study suggests that both extraverts and introverts (which they call conscientious behavior) are equally made happy, but later tired, by social interaction.
Health (and long life)
A study called “Social Relationships and Mortality Risk: A Meta-analytic Review” looked at 148 other studies to extract the possible benefits of having a strong social network. Their conclusion was that people with stronger social relationships had a 50% increased likelihood of survival than those with weaker social relationships
There are literally hundreds of studies and articles about the role of social relationships to our physical health.
Social interaction through networking, whether you’ve make any business gains or not, is good for your health.
Plus, if you park at the other end of the lot, stand up and move around as much as possible when you go to an event and count it towards your daily exercise!
A Bigger Brain
Your brain loves new experiences and new information.
So those new connections you’re making on the outside are also making new connections on the inside.
One of my favorite books is by John Medina, director of the Brain Center for Applied Learning Research at Seattle Pacific University and author of “Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School.” Rule #12 is that we are powerful and natural explorers.
Networking and networking events are a natural and powerful way to explore your community. The activity of learning new things causes our brains to make new connections and new neurons.
Ideally, your networking should always be slightly uncomfortable both for helping your brain and building your network.
When you network outside of your usual circles, you’ll meet new people who may have very different perspectives and experiences than you.
Go out and explore your city to try to meet people younger and older than you. People who are in different industries. Different places in their careers. Different backgrounds and upbringings. They might remind you where you came from. They may show you where you can go.
They might challenge your beliefs or perceptions.
That’s good for your brain.
When I was the VP of Marketing for an I.T. firm, one of my co-workers was well-known for his expertise … on local eateries.
He networked with people and built relationships with them based on his knowledge of great places to eat.
An expert is an authority whose experience, knowledge, and opinions are helpful to you. Networking is an ideal scenario for establishing and sharing your expertise.
Next time you’re at a networking event and someone’s telling you their problems, be happy! You may have an opportunity to help them solve a problem with your knowledge or experience.
When you share your knowledge (and when that information is helpful or useful), people will begin to look to you for more and more of that help.
There are two caveats to this. First, choose carefully in what you want to be seen as an expert. You want it to be something that supports your business goals.
But that’s the other difficulty. If you’re a service provider, consultant, coach, or in a similar line of business, your business IS your area of expertise. Don’t give away what you should be valued for.
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A Customized Life
I will never again try to accomplish something new and big in my life without first assembling a team. It might be formal in the form of a coach or a mastermind group.
It might be less formal and the members of the group might not even know they’re “on my team.”
I do this because you can customize your life and craft your results by carefully choosing the people you’ll spend time with.
Jim Rohn said (and has been quoted, paraphrased, and misquoted) that “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”
Some experts take this to mean that you should ruthlessly cull your friends until you’ve got the five most powerful, high-achievers you can possibly manage to get in with.
If you’re successful in doing that, now you’re probably the least successful one in those people’s circles and they should ditch you. Oops.
Instead, I apply it to each area of focus in my life. I want to run faster, so I train with a group of people who are all faster than me. I also look for stronger competitors to make me better.
I want to create more content including another networking book and an online course, so I have a group of other writers and content creators I meet with twice a month.
I want to be a successful entrepreneur, so I have friends I meet with regularly who are building successful businesses.
I want to be a good daughter and a great aunt (and also a Great Aunt), so I spend time with my (awesome) parents and my (cool) brother and his (terrific) kids.
I choose the handful of people who are going to make me better in a specific area of my life. Hopefully, they’ve chosen me too because I’m going to work to make them better as well.
This is a lot more than just five people that I try to spend time with. You’re going to have a lot more influences on you than those few. Just try to find people in a specific area to make it a lot easier to head in the right direction for your different areas. Then you can be happy also spending time with people you simply like, without judging their “success.”
And going back to an earlier benefit of networking, you can also choose people around you who will make you healthier, like non-smokers or people who exercise regularly.
And of course, if you want to be a better networker, spend more time with people who focus on building relationships, bringing value, and helping others with their networking.
Unexpected or Already Getting These Benefits?
Are these truly unexpected benefits of networking for you? Or are you seeing these changes and opportunities in your life?
On days when you’re just not feeling it, review these options and see if they can’t help get you moving toward networking.
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