Coming out of COVID, some people are more tentative than ever to buy into the benefits of in-person networking. On the other hand, many are chomping at the bit to get back into the physical world and start rubbing shoulders with influential people in the business community once again. Whether you are ready for in-person networking, or would prefer to stay online, it’s worth getting involved, and doing it well.

No matter what your industry or role, the benefits of networking are truly undeniable. According to Hubspot, 85% of jobs are filled through networking. It is hugely beneficial in forming relationships with employers, investors, and customers. David Burkus shares research that companies whose employees are rich in social capital dramatically outperform their competitors.

I like to think of networking as an art form that must be mastered with an individual flair. It isn’t by any means necessary to be the most extroverted or ‘interesting’ person in the room. Sometimes, it’s about being the best listener, and responding accordingly. There’s a lot to be said for being genuine. Three guiding principles from Morgan Walker on the foundations of valuable networking are:

– Confidence: Believe in your abilities, knowledge, and validity in your conversations.
– Curiosity: Be genuinely curious about the individuals you have the opportunity to meet. The possibilities can be very exciting, so should you be.
– Connection: Build genuine connections through deeper conversations. Wave goodbye to small talk and delve into the nitty gritty!

At Sussex Innovation, we have witnessed the power of networking firsthand in the form of our peer networking programme, The Bamboo Club. This brings founders from East Sussex together to discuss their gnarly business issues, and to come to solutions as a group. It has been fascinating to see how individuals from totally different industries and backgrounds, have huge commonalities in the hurdles they face as founders. Thus, they have an astounding ability to support one another through these obstacles.

It is not uncommon for founders and CEOs to feel a lot of intense pressure in making important decisions for the business. Professor Michael Freeman found that entrepreneurs are 50% more likely to report having a mental health condition, with some specific conditions being incredibly prevalent amongst Founders. Of course, if a mental health condition arises it’s advised to seek medical attention. But perhaps a way to guard against getting to that point is having a strong support network that you can trust in to receive valuable advice and assistance – and to know that you are not alone in your experiences or feelings.

Through the Bamboo Club, we have had the privilege of witnessing the sense of camaraderie that can be achieved in regular networking with peers – it can only be of support to the individuals and their businesses.

Networking can be time consuming and hard work if you’re not in the mood, but it’s proven to be incredibly valuable in many ways. Try to look at it as building a safety net. A safety net of support, of opportunity, of investment. The more you network, the bigger that net.

If you would like to find out more about our Bamboo Club at Sussex Innovation, we would love to hear from you. Our next group will be launching in the new year. Please get in contact with me to find out more!