The Importance of Networking by Helen Burge

It has been through networking that I’ve been able to realise an ambition of mine - to be coached. My networking journey took me from #SBLtwitter to #WomenEd in finding a qualified and experienced coach.

If you are reading this, you are likely to be part of #SBLtwitter and I honestly think this quote about networking is true and valid of my experience of the network to date:

“Instead of better glasses, your network gives you better eyes” – Ronald Burt

I absolutely love #SBLtwitter but I understand it is not for everyone. Networking via social media is relatively new and brings its own challenges. Building relationships with people you’ve never met or are likely to ever meet can be tricky but also incredibly rewarding and powerful. 

Some find relationships via social media networking easier to manage then managing relationships face-to-face. I’m sure we can all recall a training session or meeting when we felt trapped by a moaning drain of a colleague who sucks the very life out of you. If that person was on social media, you could mute them or block them!

However, as Keith Ferrazzi says “The currency of real networking is not greed but generosity”. So we should be generous to that person draining us, give them five minutes of our time. Listen to them and then offer a solution (suggest they get on #SBLtwitter, read a specific book, speak to a specific person) and ask them to get back to you after they’ve implemented it and move across the room to start another conversation – you are not a tree!

Success in nearly every aspect of our lives can come down to our ability to build meaningful relationships. Given the SBL role can be an isolating one, it is even more important for SBLs to build meaningful relationships with fellow SBLs and network both face-to-face and virtually in order to: 

  • improve wellbeing;
  • reduce feelings of isolation for themselves and amongst others;
  • share best practice and information;
  • access training, maybe at a reduced cost;
  • develop role and career progression by learning from others;
  • mentor and support new colleagues.

That final bullet point is so key and exciting, fresh SBL enthusiasm, who doesn’t want to be part of that?!

As an SBL network leader I particularly like Susan RoAne’s quote “Networking is an enrichment program, not an entitlement program.” It reinforces the idea of a two-way positive enriching relationship. In my opinion, being part of a school business network means there is a responsibility to contribute to the network and help it overcome its challenges, which include:

  • succession planning for the network Chair or other key committee members;
  • maintaining positive communication channels;
  • balancing the individual needs within the network;
  • encouraging network growth.

This quote sums it up perfectly:

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go with others.” - African Proverb

So how do you network? How are you contributing to your network? Have you been part of any successful network journeys with either positive results for you or another colleague?

Other articles by Helen Burge that you might be interested in:

This article forms part of our Smarter SBM series, which supports the launch of our new Smart Ordering tools. Informed by, and created for SBMs, Smart Ordering is range of great online features and tools that can transform a school’s office with a smarter way of purchasing. It has been developed by the team at Hope Education to help save schools money, by making the process of buying school supplies faster, smoother and more affordable. Find out more about how Smart Ordering can save your school time and money here.