Re-discovering Networking

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Re-discovering Networking
Tomorrow’s answers Today

It’s not about Re-inventing Networking.

Or Re-imagining Networking.

It’s about recognising  what we now have and where we have reached.

It’s about making it work.

When we took over the Devonshire House Management Club (See DHMC’s history here )- in 2014, we saw that it was just as much a Director level networking organisation as an Events Management business. Since then we’ve had some outstanding and serious Talks, Panel Events and Specialist Events and have developed  an extensive range of contacts with a growing number of senior Professionals –  both Speakers and Listeners  – all around our mission – Devonshire House is a people-focused membership club for Director-level professionals in leadership roles who have an instinctive focus on the human side of enterprise.  Our purpose is to create, for our members, thinking time and space for key business issues and where people make the difference.

Please do read our commentary and analysis of a re-discovered view on Networking!  Read about the reasons, the thinking, the logic and the conclusions that have led us to update our offering on Networking ………… It’s all about your future!

Devonshire House offers:

  • Devonshire House Mainstream Events Programme. Read about our Upcoming Events here
  • Elbow Room Networking – Networks for Meeting Real People – Online. Read about our Elbow Room Events Programme
  • Traditional Networking – Judith Perle presents her Working Free Programme – here
  • Social Media Networking – Johnny Pawlik presents his Working Free Programme


Networking has existed in commercial and personal terms forever.  Wherever you get people and people wanting to secure any sort of advancement or advantage, you get networking. The motives are personal – but, in most cases – include acting on behalf of non- people entities – such as companies, other organisations, causes of various types, politics, religions and ideas. The two objectives of networking in a business context are to source work or jobs directly or indirectly and, secondly, to acquire information – which is not so much technical/ professional/ training-type information – but information about people, markets, opportunities, ideas, insights, ways of thinking, trends, things that are changing and views/opinions of all types.  Much is now on the fringes of our experience or knowledge – silly to ignore it.

Traditionally, this happens through meeting people.  Still does- but things are now changing.  Read on!

This is our Present.  (Written mid-pandemic.)

  • Traditionally, Networking has all been about meeting people face to face. Mostly, it was for business purposes. Social interactions were, somehow, always separate from business.
  • Then Social Media broadened it. It focussed on the social rather than the business element but moving towards the business opportunities and tending to reflect audiences.
  • IT and Tech developments – particularly around Social Media – is speeding up all forms of communications – almost to the point of immediacy.
  • Direct mail/ emailing becoming tiresome.

So what has changed ? What are the drivers? Are traditional approaches to Networking still viable.  What’s new? 

  • Lots has changed! And hugely. And across Technology, Legislation, Type of Products and/or Services being bought and sold, Ethics. Speed and type of communications. Branding.   Job loss. Work creation………………….   We are seeing many organisations – mainly in the public sector and the larger organisations – becoming keen to manage – even reduce – to varying degrees – the incidence and even avoidance of personal contact.  This reflects established and growing sentiments around  issues of bias, diversity, ethnicity, gender, bullying, giving/taking offence, transparency, level playing field pressures, undue selling techniques (derivatives and interpretations of) bribery (Primarily since the Bribery Act 2010), conflicts of interest, openness, free speech, fairness and sporadic hostile minority activism across a broad spectrum Many organisations specify no gifts (Christmas or otherwise), no lunches (but often with conditions) , no entertainment, no alcohol during working hours.  Inside tracks, old-boy (or similar) networks are increasingly being avoided – and often bracketed with descriptive words such as “cronyism” – probably now on its way to becoming a criminal term.  What all these issues – individually and/or collectively – have in common is that no-one can be seen to be bemoaning their existence or wishing them away.   So, what is the role of Networking in this new environment is a good question!
  • Not widely acknowledged but related to the combined or selective effects of those areas referred to above, is the trend towards de-personalising recruitment and work generation and processes.  Permanent job appointments, business contracts, preferred supplier arrangements and other similar arrangements are now being partly or wholly conducted and/or awarded with varying degrees of anonymity.   Personal and Organisations’ submissions and applications (EG: CVs, Tenders, et) and others are increasingly being asked for submission omitting certain identity and related information.  Indeed, there are cases where appointments/ engagements are being put in place without people actually meeting.  This has become particularly evident during 2020.  Direct approaches are increasingly being redirected to Agents or in accordance with “sanitised” internal procedures.  Adverts, brochures now always display and promote balanced ethnic and gender mixes – quite right – but if you are a white middle-aged male looking for an NED appointment – good luck to you!  Does this mean that political correctness niceties override meritocratic judgements? Or even branding or image requirements.
  • Reflect, for a moment, on Social Media. What started as a bit of fun – keeping in touch with friends etc – has now snowballed into a prime driver of human interaction.  What rapidly became a means to an end have now become ends in themselves.  Echoes of what the likes of Ocado have done – turning themselves from a grocery business into a technology business – are being increasingly heard throughout so many parts of the business world.  What is the role of Networking in this new environment is another good question!
  • These echoes also heard in so many other types and sizes of business – in that technical social media proficiency starts with a modest spend and then expands to be the dominating part of the marketing spend. This then expands further into being the dominating element in the strategic plan of the business – or even the business itself.  So, what is the role of Networking in this new environment is yet another good question!
  • IT and Tech developments have, inevitably, been resulting in creating job loss…. and the consequential time lags in new job creation. Historically, this gap has always been the case since the Industrial Revolution. But it has closed – mainly as and when new forms of work develop.
  • Most new job creation calls for IT and Tech skills of some varying degrees. Those who can acquire these skills will fare better than those who do not.  But there will always be low skill work available. Those who miss out as a result of these changes will look for salvation in non-tech and new areas.  These will partly promote zero-hours work much of which will evade forthcoming Government controls.
  • The varying impacts of Covid-19 are now becoming well recognised – WFH will make major changes wherever the balance of time spent falls. Many now comment that there are two tipping points in the process of senior people going back to their office locations from their homes. The first is when they get fed up of working at home; the second is when they realise that they are missing out on the internal politics – and particularly within their SMT.  This disadvantages them in everyday life and also diminishes their presence in the minds of their line managers and colleagues. Bad news
  • These changes will include negative issues of skiving/ malingering, shortfalls in competence and the disguising thereof and “cheating”, the impacts of lack of human interactivity, goal-setting and competitive forces. (What is the difference between work that can all be done at home and outsourcing?)
  • These changes will include positive issues of personal reliability, trust-worthiness, ability to innovate, self-drive around agreed deliverables and the ability to handle what is now described as “Incidental Information Exchange” – (Look it up on Google – “water-cooler” stuff and related matters! Very relevant.)
  • Other impacts from Covid-19 will include handling structural changes – Reduced physical retail, big increase in online activity, changes in urban/ rural/ infrastructure uses and spending patterns and how people will now spend their time. A significant part of this will reflect the incidence of human misery – initially negative – but later reflecting some of the innate displays of goodness in some people. (Answer this question – if you aggregate all the Covid-driven extra costs and personal and business losses and compare this with what would otherwise have been – where is this missing “money” now residing?)
  • The Gap between our working lives and our private lives has changed.  Covid-19, WFH, personal sentiments, employment patterns and technplogy has accelerated the change. Ths means, amongst other things, that effective Networking operates almost seamlessly between these two. It works best when done subtly!  As an example, read this –
  • VolunteeringWhatever this has and does mean for different people, look at it this way:  Working for Nothing/  Doing social good/ Meeting People.  Humans are social animals. Generally they like to be busy.  Always, they like to be appreciated. Look at Volunteering as a building block for Networking. It works best when done subtly!
  • Joining.  For centuries, people have been joining “things.”  “Things” mean: Guilds, Livery Companies, Unions,  Masonics,  Clubs, Societies, Profess  ional Associations, Churches/Religious Bodies, Alumni Associations. Womens’ Institute and other female Organisations, Gentlemen’s Clubs (and their other gender equivalents),  Charity Trustees.  What about Gangs? Many of these eschew business promotion action.  But ……….. come on ………. Get real!  It works best when done subtly! In the business world, many companies and organisations form commercial groupings,  mostly subsription based. The fact is that all these offer networking opportunities.
  • Ah… yes ……what about Brexit? The currently little-referred-to Brexit will surely have an impact.   Opinion is divided as to exactly what this might be.

 This is our Future

  • Instantaneous connections – including with people who we have not known and met before – with different messaging.
  • Rapid developments in Social Media technology and practices particularly into business areas……..
  • ……… to the point that Social Media in business is now accepted as a resident component in the marketing and sales Business Plans of eager and innovative businesses…….
  • IT and Tech enables you to do your research faster and more thoroughly.  Take advantage of that.
  • Personally research the notion that the difference between being on the payroll and off the payroll is getting closer and what really matters is you as an individual …………
  • ……………… and re-appraise your personal profile and branding. The aim has not changed.  It is to have a PPP (Personal Professional Product) that has a market – and then find out how to sell it and to whom. Then do it.
  • Don’t think that creating and developing “relationships” as a basis for doing business does not matter anymore. Or that has been replaced by IT and Tech. It hasn’t.  You just have to do it differently.