You enter the room, scouring the sea of strangers for a friendly face. Your eyes meet and words begin to form. Numbers are exchanged – and you never hear from them again.
No, I’m not talking about going on a blind date; this is a completely different phenomenon, and it’s a great deal more rewarding.
About six months ago, a personal crisis coincided with a desire to steer my career in a new direction, plunging me into the dizzy world of business networking – buzzy breakfasts, languid lunches and dynamic dinners. Like dating, but with a different agenda.
At first, it was mystifying.
As someone who has always found early mornings a challenge, I discovered people who thought nothing of regularly rising at dawn to indulge in breezy breakfast banter. And whose reserves of courage seemed boundless: enthusiastic entrepreneurs exposing themselves to the world, pedalling their pitches day after day.
But, before long, all became clear: I was, and continue to be, pleasingly overwhelmed by the kindness of strangers who spend time and effort giving others the benefit of their helpful advice and connections, asking for nothing in return.
There have been bumps in the road and I’ve stumbled along the way. The American, hard-sell approach didn’t sit well with the more informal way I prefer to gain business; and I shied away from those kiss-me-quick punters who expect networking to yield instant dividends. But just as I was starting to question whether networking was really for me, I stumbled across the Wealden Business Group (WBG) – a diverse collection of men and women with acres of experience and wisdom between them who have made me feel welcome; who have reminded me that first and foremost we are human beings; that we conduct business with other human beings; and that we prefer those human beings to be friends.
Networking – like dating – is about meeting new people and choosing who to stay in touch with. There are always leads to follow up and those we shouldn’t touch with a barge pole. But, unlike dating, networking can be so much more satisfying. It reminds us of our connection with others and makes us appreciate that we are not alone. It brings genuine friendship into our lives. It also helps us grow our business. At the WBG the art of networking is so well honed and arises so naturally, you hardly know it’s there.
What’s not to like?
Monica Janssens – View profile