Usually in our industry when people discuss "networking,” for sales people that is their ammo, it's how they effectively carry out their job functions. For people looking for their next role, often it is in hopes that there is a job opening they wouldn't have stumbled upon if they weren't networking. However, for the majority of operators I've met, it is something that is not a priority, which might be the silent career killer.
Previously networking events were primarily a sea of sales people with their cards at the bar or restaurant, with maybe a few operators scattered around throughout the crowd. It was difficult to get customers to these happy hours as they didn't enjoy them, and I don't blame them! Once they got there they were sent into a slurry of targeted action oriented conversations that primarily focus on work, when the next job was coming up, who they are using, if they are satisfied, etc. It was a shark tank for them and they were the chum. So of course numbers dwindled, tI’ll eventually it was rare to get more than 7 or 8 out.
So with operators not attending these events, their networks shrank. Not just with various vendors, but more importantly: to other operators. Losing these connections is never good for our industry. Knowledge that used to be shared through casual conversations dried up. Meetings were scheduled to replace the social settings of knowledge transfer. Making genuine connections, the connections that makes people go out of their way to assist you in some way, also dried up. As meetings are made to discuss business. Not much personal or in depth questions asked, genuine relationships and friendships based off of trust slowed down.
Which would be fine if a pandemic didn't hit the world and cause many untargeted layoffs and our favorite word that also means layoffs: "synergies.” This left a LOT of operators (and people in every role throughout industries) looking for work. With people stuck at home and swarming at every position available, when it was posted (if there were any)… finding work was tough. The network of friendships and people who would do you a favor was pretty small, or several connections away from the person you wanted to speak to. Nobody was safe and a lot of people began their "networking" a little late, in a difficult time to speak to people (Zoom fatigue, not many people meeting in person).
It's not that anybody was in the wrong for trying to expand their network, but I'm saying, that this highlights a major muscle that needs to be worked out in operators lives. Building a strong network of colleagues based off of mutual trust and a genuine connection can be the difference between using the right vendor, finding your next role, or help make a connection that could make a team stronger, etc. This is why operators should be attending events, or meeting with other operators not in a meeting setting. The development of a good relationship could not only gain you a friend, but it could be the start of a collaboration on best practices, a legit synergy between two people to be business partners, etc.
This can only be done by getting out there, and meeting other operators, whether they are operating in your area, setting up a playdate with the little ones, having coffee, attending networking events, going to that lunch. Now is the time to build your network for tomorrow. You don't start when you need something, you rely on your friends for that, not your new connections.