We speak a lot about networking. That’s because we believe in the power of connections and the ways they can take your career to another level. However, for some people, like entrepreneurs, networking is becoming a crucial skill. In fact, 78% of startups think that networking is vital to entrepreneurial success. People go through different stages on their way to success. On this road, it is relevant to surround yourself with individuals who already had the chance to experience similar challenges and learn from them. It is as important to be able to share yours with people coming after you. 

Asking for help

When starting your business, or in the conceptualisation stage, you will need more help. There is no business created without connections. They are the foundation of everything, and they will certainly open a few doors for you. If you are one of those who think they should not share their idea at this stage, as someone will steal it, please keep reading. Because you are completely wrong. The idea itself is nothing. It starts to matter when you make something with it. So don’t ever be shy and always share it! A study from Iain Edmondson could also help change your mind. It categorized the benefits gained from networking at three different stages: Conceptualisation, Start-up and Growth. 

He named two types of benefits, the “harder” and the “softer” ones. The first ones are about leading you to customers, investors, partners, etc. On the other hand, “softer” benefits are bringing you credibility, legitimacy, advice and problem solving and more.

Knowing that it’s easy to understand which benefits profit at which stage. “Softer” ones are important for conceptualisation and start-up stage, while “harder” benefits for start-up and growth stage. 

Knowing what you need and where you have a lack of knowledge is crucial to get answers, motivation and credibility without losing your focus. Everyone needs help at some point, so you should not be afraid of asking for some. And you will soon notice that bringing your idea to life is more complicated than you think. 

Always be grateful

Getting help is one thing, but feeling grateful for it is another. The connection doesn’t end when you receive what you wanted. Networking is about creating a relationship, and you will never have a big and successful network if you don’t understand that. Since it’s not always about you, you should learn to listen. Caring about the person you have in front of you will lead to mutual aid. Don’t think you have nothing to give back just because you’re one step behind. For instance, Geoff Smart and Randy Street recommend in their book Who: A method for hiring, that, after every meeting, you should give at least one connection and receive one in order to constantly develop your network while helping others do the same. 

Become the mentor

Once you hit the growth stage you worked for, swap roles! You are becoming the one we could ask for help, but we suggest one thing: don’t wait for people to ask you. I learned that from Claire Passy, the CEO of ThereSheGoes. As it could sound biased by our professional relationship, I actually can not count the times she jumped to help and support me. When I asked why her answer was: “People were there for me at the beginning, I want to do my part now, and I know how valuable it is to have someone you can count on.” 

Do not take your network for granted! When you reach the top of the ladder, have in mind the ones trying to climb like you once did and give them a hand. 

Think of what you need right now, “harder” or “softer” benefits?