Picture yourself staggering across an arid desert. Critically thirsty, strength depleting and losing hope. Water, something you usually take for granted, is at that moment, the single most important focus of your life. Suddenly, over the horizon, silhouetted by the hot sun, walks a stranger holding a glistening bottle of ice-cold water…for you. 

Would you care who that person is, what their role is, where they came from or why they’re inviting themselves into your life? I doubt it. You’d be incredibly relieved and would likely be keen to repay their kindness. 

Now consider that story in the context of networking.

What do you ultimately aim to gain from networking in the long term? 

Do you hope to generate endless contacts and amass vast catalogues of followers and likes? Or do you instead focus on the valuable opportunity to curate and share knowledge and information with talented, like-minded, experienced, and influential people? Those who might be there to hand you that ‘ice cold glass of water’ one day, when you need it most. 

Networking is a fundamental practice, not just in the context of the learning and development industry, but also in the automotive retail and financial services sectors that so many of RTS Group’s clients operate in. 

It remains among the most under-rated and mis-conceived business tools today.  One that all of us tinker with to differing degrees, often without any real focus or ambition, sometimes without even knowing we’re doing it. 

How can networking play a role in skills development?

Networking encourages learners to connect with peers to share and build out valuable foundations of knowledge. Through nurturing impactful relationships, people can broaden their understanding across entire businesses and networks. Thus, it’s a key step in championing learning outcomes whilst identifying and developing best practice. 

It’s for this reason that networking can open doors to otherwise unattainable value. Value that is mutual to all parties. Put simply, business networking offers unrestricted access to insight and opportunity that we might otherwise never discover. 

We often use elements of networking in learning and development programs to enhance interpersonal sales skills, broaden business acumen and develop leaders for related accreditations. More and more we see networking as a gateway to connecting with clients on key industry topics. In most cases, those we reach out to are hungry to tap into our own valuable insight and experience. 

As such, networking can generate leads, but when executed properly, it can transform an entire business trajectory. This is because it forms an integral part of discovery, the critical pre-development stage that we target before proposing ground-breaking solutions to prospective clients. 

Networking enables close collaboration with other departments, eradicating silos whilst promoting meaningful research and enabling focused product testing. Networking strengthens the crucial bond between L&D and the latest technological trends. What works well, what doesn’t work at all and why? 

And there’s another angle – Influence

It’s often said that to be effective in business today, you must be able to influence people. ‘It’s not what you know, it’s who you know’. Fuelled by key learning and development attributes including knowledge, communication, confidence, and assertiveness; influencing is a complex and powerful skill. 

Networking can provide a robust foundation to influence others and if you’re able to influence others you will truly be noticed. Networking can help you to do what you otherwise cannot. For example, where you can’t influence a person directly; perhaps somebody in your network can. 

So, grow your network and seek to build meaningful industry connections.

Have a clear vision and always keep your objectives in focus. 

Take advantage of all available mediums, from LinkedIn and other online forums to more traditional social and event-based approaches. Seek out like-minded professionals you can learn from and who, in turn, can learn from you. 

Remember, those in your network who don’t align with your needs right now, might pay huge dividends down the line. The most successful networks are often the most varied, dynamic, and unpredictable. 

You never know when you (or others) will need that cool, lifesaving glass of water. 

Never deny yourself an opportunity to grow your network. 

This Networking blog is the first in a series of Business Excellence blogs, follow us on LinkedIn to be notified when the next in the series goes live.

If you’d like to learn more about how RTS can help with your team’s skills development and your next Learning & Development project, please get in touch.

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