What is business networking for, exactly? The danger is that it veers too far in one of two directions. Either it is too coffee-and-casual and simply becomes a social event; or it turns into a series of pure sales pitches where the first point of greeting is the business card.
“What business networking should be is a balance between social and business interaction,” Mubarak Chati, of 1 Events Media remarks. “However, it can also be an opportunity to learn from others and to share valuable insights.”
In this it shares key qualities with mentoring, with many of the same aims.
A mentoring relationship provides clarity and insight. It offers access to new resources and different perspectives. It can lead to development in areas normally untouched by an individual’s job description.
“Being mentored offers guidance and support, while being a mentor is the opportunity to develop leadership skills and expand your own view of the world by seeing it through another’s eyes”
Mubarak has a background in executive business coaching, personal training and as an events and networking organiser. He sees these things as fluid, rather than as mutually distinct.
“If, for example, you look at the four stages of mentoring, you can apply them to networking relationships,” he points out.
Stages of Development
These four stages are:
“Personal growth is very much achievable through networking,” Mubarak states, “because the more diverse the range of people you encounter, the more you learn about yourself.”
“Similarly, rapport is essential to good networking, and this skill comes with practice from regular involvement with others. It’s the give and take, the ability to listen as well as making yourself heard, that counts in networking,” Mubarak says.
“Regular networking can help set and define goals as it opens new, and sometimes unexpected, opportunities. And progression naturally comes from having a clear sense of direction”
“You can’t sit back and wait for it to happen though,” Mubarak cautions. “Like all relationships, you have to work at it.”
“You don’t have to think of relationships ending necessarily, but of evolving into something else. And networking provides the opportunity to keep building new relationships even as old ones change,” Mubarak explains.
Face-to-face mentoring is different from networking with groups, but ultimately both are about people building relationships with a purpose, to learn and guide, and to pass on insight while finding out new things.