As an introvert, I’m not a natural “networker” in the traditional sense. Introverts aren’t particularly comfortable in big groups. We don’t like interrupting and take time to make connections. The fast, loud, competitive environment of networking events, where you have to introduce yourself to a group of strangers, still fills me with dread. This is part of why I’m grateful for membership organisations, which have provided a more comfortable network. One that is based on shared interests, mutual appreciation and long-term relationships. The range of professions, personalities and cultures I’ve been exposed to has taught me an incredible amount. I’m pretty sure I could find someone in almost any profession in any country in the world through these links.
As I’ve started up my own business, I’ve called on people in my network with varied skills. These include business start-up planning, financial advice, accountancy and marketing. Speaking to entrepreneurs who have similar businesses or are in similar early stage business development has been enormously beneficial. Many people have generously provided informal (free) advice, encouragement and support. Whenever I need more formal (paid) advice, I would always prefer to give this work to someone in my network; someone who knows me, someone I know and trust.
Outside of those I have directly spoken to, I appreciate the benefits from my wider network. There are many people who have helped me indirectly. The things that they share on social media have been a source of insight, motivation and a reminder of what people can achieve if they put their minds to it. Even the simplest of conversations and interactions has provided flashes of inspiration. They have resulted in ideas for blogs, topics to research and reassurance when the going has been tough.
In exploring how to develop a portfolio career, the importance of network comes up time and time again. Some of the first opportunities I’ve had have come through my network. Both in communication skills training and non-executive director roles. People I’ve worked with on boards and in training environments have recommended me, because they knew I could bring relevant skills to organisations in need of certain expertise.
Just as my network has helped me, likewise, I enjoy being helpful to those in my network. In the last few months I have been able to do this in several different ways; often introducing people across different parts of my network. I relish contributing to solving a problem when a connection tells me of one that I know another connection will be able to help with. I value the long-term relationships that I have. Knowing and having built trust with those people I’ve interacted with personally and professionally means I have no hesitation in recommending them.
Who you surround yourself with matters. Being around people who push themselves, help other people to excel and share tips on how to achieve this has undoubtedly influenced my decisions in how I should shape my own future. I would not be doing what I am doing today without the influence of my network. I know it will remain an essential part of my future success.