You have probably heard “Your network is your net worth” being used in the world of business. But what does it mean for you? After all, you are educators not business people, well, it all depends how you define your worth…
Are you begging for favours?
Think about why you are networking. If you are networking because you want something, then you are doing it wrong. No one wants to get to know someone who is reaching out only to get something or because they are in crisis. You should be investing in wider relationships throughout your career. If you think your “net worth” is purely about money, take a long, hard look in the mirror and stop being so money oriented. Networks are built on trust not greed.
1. How can you help them?
An often overlooked benefit of networking is that is allow you to help other people. Yes, we all have ulterior motives in for creating professional networks, and yes, we are rarely truly altruistic, but the rewards for helping someone else achieve their goals is extremely rewarding.
If you help them achieve their goals, then it is highly likely they will be willing to help you achieve yours. In other words, helping others IS helping yourself. Plus, by helping deliver success to someone else, you are establishing a level of trust that you can build on in the future.
2. What do you have to offer?
If others are going to trust you, you have to invest some of yourself in the relationship. You have to be able to offer something of value and expect nothing in return. What this thing is, that you offer, that has value varies from person to person. But you never have nothing. You always have two things of value that you can offer to others.
First, your network. Simply connect other people together who can offer each other something that they both need.
When you do this the results are threefold. The new connection is genuinely grateful that you helped them (see point 1.) The person you introduced to the new contact is grateful that you thought of them. And, finally, both of them will remember that you were the person that made the connection.
The other thing you have? Your experiences. Even if you are new to teaching, you have probably had a life already and made connections in other areas. It doesn’t just have to be about teaching, consider your hobbies, pass times and passion projects. Often there is something there that could be useful for other people.
3. Exchanging ideas is the secret sauce.
OK, so The Colonel, Ronald MacDonald and the guys at Coca Cola aren’t going to give away their secrets anytime soon, but that is not what this is about. Your success will be based on the pool of information or ideas that you have collected over the years. When you are receiving ideas, it helps you to do your job better, or even live your life better. It also provides great professional development and instils best practice in your approach.
Networks are created to foster the exchange of ideas to sustain long-term relationships and build mutual trust (there’s that word again). You can help others simply by sharing your thoughts, ideas and perspectives on different things. Collaborations can be amazingly satisfying and productive, particularly if you share the results of those collaborations with others. (See points 1. and 2. above).
4. It makes you visible
Visibility is good for you. Yes, even the shy ones amongst you. When you are visible you create room for partnerships, which in turn builds careers. It isn’t just about your own visibility, it is allows you to create more visibility for others in your network. It creates opportunities for everyone to find the right people to collaborate or work with. You don’t know who is watching who could offer you that dream job, or pick up on your game-changing practical idea on how to improve the well-being of all teachers in every school throughout the world.
5. It provides you with support.
Everyone has hurdles in their career, remember the first part about not begging for favours? If you have built your network before you need the favour, before you need help in a crisis, you will find that it is there. Often from the most unlikely of sources. However, this is not the only way in which it can support you.
Networking can connect you with whole host of experience from people on the same path as you. People who have trodden it already. These individuals can help you manage your challenges effectively and prevent you from reaching a state of crisis in the first place.
As your network grows, you will find that your status grows too. The contacts you keeps are a sign of your growth and they pave the way for better opportunities in your career. Your connections are powerful, and you can be too. Just remember to use that power for good.
6. Go outside...
Not literally, although may be you should… Many people only network inside their niche. Teachers often hang around with other teachers in their local area and bore the hell out of their spouses and partners talking about lessons, marking and the weird things that kids and parents do. Don’t just do this. Connect with other people from different professions, different area and consider how their experiences and skills could help you with what you do.
7. it makes you more creative
All this connecting, supporting and sharing of ideas has a big impact on you and the way you think. Much of the innovation you see in your school is the result of external factors around the people that came up with the ideas. Even a simple interaction can offer a new perspective on something and create a breakthrough in the project or idea you are working on.
Sharing ideas with like-minded people develops your creative intellect and unleashes the creative spark inside. No one is an island, start growing your network.
What are you worth?
Reading this has, hopefully, changed your view on your value. It isn’t about what you earn, it is about what you contribute to the lives of others. This sharing will come back to you multiplied many times over if you invest your time in building relationships with others in your network.
Who will you connect with? Collaborate with? Support and learn from? It is never too late to start investing in your network. Get started today.