Education is the key to one’s success, but education isn’t just information that comes from a book or classroom. Rather, it is a compilation of information including common sense, skills and trades; communication; relationships; and the list could go on and on. We continue to learn and develop who we are and what we know every day—that is what makes great leaders.
Our education is what differentiates us from one another, yet it is usually the common denominator when networking. It is our knowledge—whether current issues, news or happenings—that connects us to one another. This process of newsworthy networking is vital in the business environment. It is a great benefit for you to be known as a powerful resource of information to others and vice versa.
Networking is a two-way street. You refer your contacts to people within your network who can help solve their problems, and if you are known as a strong resource, people remember to turn to you for suggestions, ideas, etc. You’ll be seen as a problem solver, and those who benefit from your referrals are more likely to provide you with referrals in return. The more you network, the more you learn from others. Networking is like continuing your education.
Networking helps build trust and relationships, and as we all know, business is built on relationships. It is a way for you to help others and gain an understanding of their concerns and issues. While we all have a personal agenda when networking, remember that being genuine is very important. No one wants to build a relationship with a phony. When trying to learn about someone or something, be sure to ask questions consisting of who, what, when, where and how—not those that can be answered with a simple yes or no. This opens up the discussion and shows that you are interested and engaged.
Networking can be quite frightening for some people. It can make you uncomfortable and uneasy because you are talking to strangers about topics in which you may not be well-versed. One way to overcome that fear is by having an “elevator speech” prepared, something ready to break the ice and get you started. One piece of advice, though: Don’t overload it with information all about you—be sure to interject questions to allow for more conversation.
Being engaged in the community is another way to network. By getting involved, especially through volunteer work, you will learn more about the community, the leaders and the organizations that make up the region. Holding volunteer positions is a great way to stay visible, meet other leaders, and give back to the community.
Getting involved is easy. Visit as many groups as possible that spark your interest. Check out the organizations whose goals and purpose are most meaningful to you. While visiting, be sure to check out the tone of those involved. How is the leadership? Does this seem like a fit for you? It never hurts to try something out before jumping in with both feet. Many groups allow you to visit a few times before joining.
Education is the key to success, and networking is one way to continue your education. All in all, knowledge is power and the more we know, the greater success each of us will achieve. iBi
The Young Professionals Organization of Greater Peoria is a program
of the Peoria Area Chamber of Commerce.