Blog :

Has Networking Changed?

May 10, 2023
Has Networking Changed?

When was the last time you received a business card? 

It could have been yesterday, it could have been last year - or perhaps, never?

Networking is present in our day-to-day professional lives, and it can differ hugely depending on the sector you work in or the type of clientele that you’re trying to network with. However, it’s safe to say that the world of networking has evolved drastically over the past decade - even the past 5 years to say the least!

It started with the humble business card.

Even in pop culture and the films that we watch - seeing businessmen in suits exchanging small pieces of paper with their details on them was considered the crème de la crème of business relationships, but there were doubts about the business card back in 2017. Before we had technology or smartphones, professionals were highly reliant on these small pieces of card to leave a lasting impression and hopefully build a relationship. 

I have not handed out a business card in over two years. Why? If I want a contact's information to sell our services, I will ask for their email and immediately send them a message. Now I have their information and they have mine. It also creates a reminder when they get back to the office in their inbox. Business cards can often be tossed, dropped, lost or just not referenced again”

This doesn’t mean that the business card is dead - it’s just probably going to be a more dated version of networking. It’s also a (pardon the awful joke) very 2D way of networking.

The truth is, people like to do things authentically and organically now - and it’s less about “Hi, this is what I can sell you - here’s my card”, and instead “Hi, I talk about x,y and z topic online and I can collaborate with you to provide x service, and here are a ton of testimonials to support it!”. 

Networking goes beyond a conversation and a canapé, and people are getting more creative with how they network and also, how they build a community.

Networking vs community building

People have completely changed their outlook on what networking really is, and instead the term “community building” is a better lens to view networking in. 

Entrepreneur talked about this exact topic back in 2018, highlighting that “networking isn't a bad thing in and of itself. It's helped me grow hundreds of companies and build my personal brand. But when we approach networking solely with a "What's in it for me" mindset, it becomes less about value and more about selling yourself.”

This isn’t us saying that networking is dressed in a seedy coat - instead, it’s highlighting that modern networking is less about selling and more about adding value - with the hope that it will monetize long term. It’s a much slower burn networking technique, but one that is proving to be more authentic and more successful.

What are some examples of community building?
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Whether it’s newsletters, infographics or guides - the more specific these resources are, the more concentrated your community can be.

Dinners, events, and talks

Depending on how introverted or extroverted you are, a great community-building technique is hosting dinners, events and in-person talks. It enables you to get FaceTime with multiple people at once and facilitate introductions that would take much longer to achieve virtually. 

Online groups and chats

It could be WhatsApp, Slack, or Discord - whatever medium your community likes, stick with it. Sure, group chats can become messy and annoying if insufficiently moderated, but on the whole, they can be an excellent place to share insights, advice and knowledge.

Podcasts

The dreaded podcast for some, but the beloved podcast for others. Love them or hate them, podcasts have made a gigantic comeback in the past few years and for a good reason. They’re a great way to share community knowledge without consistently selling yourself - it’s a lot more subtle and a much slower burner, but, can be an incredible long-term sales tool. 

Is the networking world a level playing field?

In some ways yes, and in some ways no. We’re no expert on this and there’s a lot that still needs to be done for equality within our sector let alone in others, however, the multiple channels available to professionals nowadays improve accessibility. This as a by-product creates a better level of “fairness” - but inclusivity? 

That will be largely determined by the organisations supporting professionals to network and ensuring they’re equipped to thrive in specific spaces. Nepotism, the “old boys club” and other phrases of that nature are unfortunately still rife, but the bottom line is that there is variety - which brings change, which ultimately impacts inclusivity.

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