Reflections on Networking

We set out, here, some of our thoughts about networking which we think might be helpful, either generally or specifically in considering becoming a Member of Devonshire House.

There is a form at the bottom of this page to make comments and email them to us.  We would like to publish the ones in this Section that we think may be helpful to others but would not do this without your specific permission.

Reflections on networking

Networking has existed in commercial and personal terms forever.

Over the centuries, patronage and favouritism has worked well.  Also, the more negative levers such as nepotism, bribery, blackmail and aspects of personal persuasion have secured commercial and personal advantage.

No doubt all of these still go on to some extent, but the more straightforward techniques of making progress commercially and personally – commonly known as Networking – probably came into commercial focus and recognition about 30 years ago.  The primary drivers reflected a maturing economy in which supply was beginning to exceed demand and traditional routes to market were beginning to be seen as too slow and ineffective.

In the middle of this were people – people looking to sell their company’s goods or services and, also, to advance their own earnings and careers. Developing communication technologies including social media were beginning to play a material role in this process. You could do it faster and do more of it.

All of this reflected the key principle that, in the end, people buy from people and face to face contacts are vital. The major part of the effort was about engineering these face to face meetings and with the right people.  Social media supports this; not replaces it.

Our modern world is full of literature and digital material and experts on Networking – virtually all of which is good stuff. You can find it everywhere.  There is only so much that can be said and written -and, after a while, it can become repetitive and tiresome.  But, you should spend some time here.

The two objectives of networking are to meet people who can introduce work to you directly or indirectly and, secondly, to acquire information – not so much technical/ professional/ training-type information – but being information about people, markets, opportunities, ideas, insights, ways of thinking, trends, changes and views – many that differ from your own – with or without evidential material.  Mostly, it is about expanding your judgemental base.

We submit that Devonshire House can do well for you in this latter regard.

However… here are a few observations which might be helpful…

  • Obvious competence and achievement are excellent sellers – particularly if others know about it.
  • An economy that was mature 30 years ago is even more mature now – meaning that supply of goods and services in the UK are calling for more contacts with more people. It also means that more business activity can be found in non-core activities as opposed to mainstream activities – virtually all in the service sector and virtually all that will be regarded as discretionary spend when economic conditions cycle downwards.  This means that those displaced people will need to re-invent themselves.  This calls for a good range of contacts – ideally in areas where the work opportunities can be found.
  • Generally speaking, fewer people are joining clubs. Organisations such as Rotary, Round Table, Free Masonry, golf clubs, political parties, (Labour is a curious exception to this new rule) are evidence of this.   This also reflects changing socio-economic circumstances – and probably has much to do with the time commitments, the costs, the need for immediacy and shorter attention spans. This is something that we at Devonshire House, are conscious of and have designed our Programmes to suit.
  • Many people take the view that social media is the answer to having lots of valuable contacts – being a replacement for getting out and meeting people.  It’s easy to do – and you can do it during your employer’s time!  LinkedIn, our favourite loss-making conduit to new and multiple opportunities, does not deliver for everyone. (What did you want it to deliver?)  Generally, it delivers for recruiters – and that might be the same thing.
  • Getting out and meeting people is not as easy as it used to be. Brits work longer hours than in many comparative countries, laptops and mobile phones are blurring the difference between work time and your own time and, importantly, partners in a family who are out at work, are making domestic and family routines that much harder to manage. So, you can’t do what lots of busy successful top Executives do – out every evening doing business-type things.  For many top C-suite people, finding out what peer group leaders elsewhere are doing and thinking is vital. In fact, this is how Devonshire House started about 40 years ago – with HRDs exercised about industrial relations and needing a key forum within which to develop mutually compatible interchanges of ideas and information and generate soft power for themselves.  Things are different now – but the principles don’t change.
  • Certainly, LinkedIn and similar digital wizardry will make changing jobs and finding work that much easier – but has it – and does it – actually increase the volume of opportunities out there?
  • Diversity legislation and the Bribery Act have both made a difference. As an example – If you have a good contact in any large organisation ring him/her up and ask if they can find a job for your son or daughter just leaving uni!  Nervousness ensues!  You have to compete within established processes. You might win in the end but there is hassle and risk for most.
  • Recruitment patterns are changing. The majority of large businesses – and many others –  are recruiting through Preferred Supplier Agreements; you need to know who these people are.  Comparatively good opportunities exist with their downstream suppliers – goods and, mainly, services.
  • Things are different in the Public sector.  Generally, public sector people do little external networking.  No need to. Promotion and advancement follows established pathways.  Their pensions position will be attractive and enviable and most have little interest in paid work after retirement.
  • A characteristic of young successful Director-level managers is that they believe that their working world is likely to stay the same indefinately.  For some, it does; for some it does not matter; but for those where this does not happen, there will be new challenges. The old and original principle of it’s who you know is probably still the main driver.  And when they talk about what you know, it may well relate – now – not to your tradecraft but to your knowledge of the markets – broadly interpreted.  The clever ones are those who sort all this out before they need to.

Devonshire House is not a recruitment or an “outplacement” company – we are Director-level professionals in leadership roles who have an instinctive focus on the human side of enterprise. We are hungry for knowledge; for ideas; for insights; for clues about the future and to meet new people.

Why don’t you talk with us about joining us at Devonshire House?

PS:  Don’t forget, you can let us have your comments – any comments relevant to what we are doing at Devonshire House – and which we might publish here for the benefit of others – using the following form. Our plan is to publish relevant comments with attributions which will be posted below…

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