The first experience we all had of networking was probably starting school – dressed to impress, going in to a room that was unfamiliar to us, into a group of people that we probably hadn’t met before and having to quickly assess our place in the situation independently and feeling the pressure of needing a positive outcome! It can feel exactly the same for many as they walk into a room of business owners, professionals and industry experts at a networking event!
I am fortunate that I do enjoy networking, I love meeting new people and I’m an active listener and really enjoy connecting people! I am ideally situated for my role as the General Manager of a British business group managing and inspiring a team that curates over 70 events a year and connects 900+ members throughout their membership through introductions, facilitating knowledge transfer and actively encouraging their visibility across our active social media platforms.
In today’s interconnected world, the power of networking cannot be underestimated. Building and nurturing professional connections has become a crucial aspect of our career development and personal growth. Networking allows us to expand our reach, establish meaningful relationships and open doors of opportunity that may have otherwise remained closed.
There are multiple reasons why you would embark on networking – building your contacts, familiarising yourself in a new sector or location, as a job seeker or with a thirst for knowledge but I will start by saying that the most successful networkers I have observed are those that walk into an event and genuinely think ‘how can I help?’.
In Joe Polish’s recently launched Wall Street Bestseller, “What’s in it for Them” you will find so many great examples – and the theory – of the power of mastering relationships with people in business. Joe says “Be a pain detective to connect with others. Focus first on the other person and their suffering. You and your possible solutions come second.”
Strong networkers are also always referring leads to others because that sincerity builds credibility and strengthens your personal brand. Your ease at recommending others will naturally elevate you to then be front of mind for when your contacts hear of leads that can be relevant to you.
Networking groups – like the British Business Group (BBG) – provide a platform for members to exchange ideas, insights, and experiences. Engaging with professionals in a similar or complementary fields can lead to the acquisition of new knowledge and expertise. A study conducted by McKinsey found that 81% of professionals believe networking is essential for career development. By attending conferences, seminars, and industry events, you will learn from experts, stay updated with industry trends, and broaden your horizons. Our events range from closed door roundtables, large scale business briefings, golf days, evening networking and family days! We cater for a diverse and dynamic membership that represents over 25 industry sectors.
I am often approached on LinkedIn by job seekers who identify that the BBG will likely be a great source of open positions. Perhaps it is because its widely known that a significant number of job openings are never advertised publicly. Instead, they are filled through networking and word-of-mouth referrals. There is great significance for building a strong professional network as it provides access to the ‘hidden job market’ and increases the chances of landing sought-after opportunities that may not made available externally but are known within your wider network. Personally, I only ever applied and interviewed for my first job, the roles I have held since then were gained through my network, by recommendation or via a direct connection that I had forged. Your potential job network could be a virtual network and I would say, quite specific to Dubai, there is a heavy reliance on Facebook pages like British Mums Dubai – with some great success stories – of those looking for work themselves or on behalf of their spouse reaching out on a post and often a great community response to help and share CVs and open positions.
I would confidently say that networking is vital for entrepreneurs and business professionals. Connecting with like-minded individuals, industry experts, and potential clients leads to partnerships, collaborations and new business opportunities. A study conducted by Harvard Business Review found that 78% of startups consider networking crucial for entrepreneurial success. By expanding their network, entrepreneurs can tap into a wealth of knowledge, resources, and potential customers, partners and suppliers.
Networking also provides a sense of community and support. Connecting with other business owners, managers, department heads etc who share similar challenges and goals to you can create a network of support, encouragement, and mentorship – particularly for the ‘solopreneur’. According to a survey conducted by ‘US value based career platform’ The Muse, 76% of professionals believe that having a mentor is crucial for career success. Networking enables individuals to find mentors who can guide them, share wisdom, and provide valuable advice along their professional journey. At the BBG, we were cognisant of a lack of interaction and mentoring during the lock down and now with hybrid working. The younger generation do risk feeling isolated and were missing the interaction and proximity to more seasoned professionals to learn from i.e. overhearing client management practices over the phone in an open plan office. The BBG ‘Speed Mentoring Series’ was an event series that was born out of the pandemic where we hosted 40 members and ‘rising stars’ who sat opposite each other for six minutes at a time with prompt questions such as ‘what do you wish you invested in at the start of your career?’ ‘what would you have done differently as you launched your business’ and gave both new to career and established business leaders the opportunity to learn from each other in a fast paced dynamic setting. It’s still one of our most popular events which has since evolved to ‘Speed Networking’.
As an active and visible platform for British business and expats in Dubai the BBG Board and business team does feel a responsibility for supporting our members and the wider business network. In 2019 then UK Prime Minister Theresa May appointed the first ever Minister for Loneliness. The “Loneliness Epidemic” is a globally recognised issue. Research has shed particular light on the often overlooked struggles faced by solopreneurs, revealing a ‘pervasive sense of loneliness’ within the business world. A study conducted by Harvard Business Review found that 50% of solopreneurs reported feeling lonely on a regular basis. The BBG is committed to providing a strong support system with multiple networking opportunities to try and combat the isolation that solopreneurs and increasingly ‘middle-managers’ often experience in their entrepreneurial and professional journey.
In conclusion, the power of networking is undeniable. By building and nurturing professional connections, you can tap into the hidden job market, unlock new business opportunities, acquire knowledge, find support, and enhance your confidence and communication skills. Research positively positions networking as playing a vital role in career development and success and I would urge you to actively invest time and effort into building and maintaining the right professional networks.