I often tell people in the labs, those who are consultants, and anyone else I know that networking is important. Some of these people think I’m just nuts to suggest this. They don’t know why they should bother.
For example, people sometimes want to find out which companies are reliable for laboratory informatics software, for consulting services of one type of anoher, or for equipment. They don’t bother getting to know anyone. When the day comes that they need help, they don’t know someone at another company who might know them well-enough to bother helping them and to trust them with the possibly negative comments they might have, because many people won’t give negative comments to people that are strangers and/or that they don’t trust. Those very people that don’t want to spend the time getting to know the others in their industry get frustrated. They put a question out to the industry and get little or no useful responses. Without the work to make those links with others to develop that social capital, the response isn’t what it might be for people like me or for those in the lab that reach out to others to get to know them.
Sometimes, other consultants ask me for advice. They want to know how to find work, for example. Over the years, I’ve suggested to them various organizations that they could get involved with and ways to network with others to develop the links with others to get recommendations and work. Often, those consultants are quite angry to find that the suggestions I give don’t give them business leads. The suggestions I give are a way to learn how to find business leads not some handout. Learn to network. It’s hard. It’s hard for me, too. It’s hard but you have to do it if you want to get business. It’s the way it is.
Bottom line: When you need help, those who know you or who see you as active in the industry or helpful to others will be much more likely to help you than if no-one knows who you are and haven’t seen you active or helping others. When you wait until you suddenly need help, you’re asking strangers for help and less likely to get it. The users I know who are kind of active in the industry get better help. I’m active in the industry and get good help. I don’t want another person to tell me how they don’t have time to network and don’t see the value and, by the way, no-one helps, anyway. Of course they don’t — many people want to think you kind of deserve it before they’ll help you.
What got me on this track is that I just had supper wtih a couple of consultants I know. We had a social night but also did have the “so, what do you do to get business” discussion and shared some useful information, as well as other business information. That comes from meeting others and giving them your time. In return, you’ll get their time, too. And, the bonus is that you not just share tips but have great conversations about how to run your businesses, both the good and the bad things you’ve tried. If I sound like I truly value connections like these, even though they’re not even in my industry to give me potential business leads, it’s true — I do value them. These are the connections that make a difference in the information we get. The more people we know with good information to share, the more information we personally have, as well.