Networking: an apprentice’s view
It turns out there is more to life than the school bubble I’ve sat in for the last 13 years. Whilst some of what I learnt at school has turned out to be useful after nearly 4 months into my first full time job I’ve learnt a lot, too much to write in one go. What I’ve learnt about the most is networking. Like most people my age I had only really heard the word ‘networking’ if it had been preceded by the word ‘social’, I already knew that social networking was important for businesses but my apprenticeship with Thrive has taught me the importance and power of face to face networking.
Due to the nature of my job I attend a number of regular networking events which Thrive host and I have also attended a number of networking meetings run by other networking companies. At first I was skeptical, would people just stand up and try to sell themselves to me in 30 seconds before hitting me with a tidal wave of business cards? Occasionally it has been like this, although thankfully not at any Thrive meetings. My skepticism was quickly left behind and thanks to my Swarm apprenticeship and Thrive I now know what networking is really about.
Networking is about developing your connections for growth, I’ll admit this sounds like quite a general statement, like I’m trying to avoid the question of ‘what is networking about?’, but nevertheless the statement rings true. My apprenticeship has taught me that since I first started developing relationships with other humans I started to network. Networking isn’t just done at a business breakfast with women and men in suits meeting on a regular basis to discuss business and sell themselves. Networking is done on nights out, on the bus, when you join a new school or job, networking is done anywhere and everywhere, we make connections everywhere we go. Connections made through networking cause growth in 2 main ways: personal growth and business growth. Networking is done so often across nearly every aspect of life, which is why a statement answering the question ‘what is networking about?’ will in my opinion always be generalised.
The final thing I’ve learnt so far during my apprenticeship is that networking meetings and events are lacking young people, I am the youngest at all of the events I attend by a long way. But from what I’ve heard and discussed at events is that there is a want for younger people to be in the room, bringing a fresh approach and perspective. But understandably young people, like myself, can be scared of attending networking events, especially if they’re on their own and often young people don’t see a need to network because they are either sat comfortably in a job or don’t see it as a necessary requirement, but clubs and groups like Norwich Rotaract are setting out to change young people’s views on networking. It’s not as scary as it seems, especially if you find a networking group with a style that suits you. It is a necessary requirement for any young professional as networking is not about immediate gratification, you should never attend a networking event with the intent of walking out of it with business because that’s never going to happen and if it does it won’t be a sustainable source of work. Networking is about playing the long game, building new and on existing relationships, offering help and solutions when you can and most importantly remaining front of mind so that when one of your connections hears of someone looking for someone who specialises in your profession they know exactly where to send them. I’ve learnt that playing the long game and attending networking events with the expectation of you helping someone instead of expecting others to hand you jobs and referrals generally leads to much bigger, much better and much more sustainable clients and jobs.