Stepping outside of the circle and onto the yellow brick road

SBLs are great at networking within their profession, but it’s also important to be able to network with other key stakeholders. So, how can you be a networking success outside of the SBL bubble?

When networking, think of the Wizard of Oz. You need to find your courage like the lion, find your brain like the scarecrow and find your heart like the tin man.
It can be intimidating initiating a conversation with someone that you have never met before. However, finding the courage to approach someone may lead to them being able to benefit you in the future. They might be from a local recruitment company, a catering firm or a HR company – imagine, you could just meet someone who could provide you with a great deal.
Contacts also breed contacts and, once you have plucked up the courage to speak to someone, they may also be able to introduce you to other professional contacts. Even if you only feel brave enough to talk to one person, your network of professional contacts could still grow significantly.
A school business manger’s work can often be quite isolated and this means that knowledge-sharing can be limited. Networking with professional contacts means that you can share your knowledge with them and, more importantly, they can share their knowledge with you. Networking with other SBLs is useful, but it cannot provide you with the wealth and depth of wisdom that networking with experts can. Being able to pick the brains of a procurement, security or ICT expert will provide you with an expert insight into a sector which you may otherwise not have had experience of. Every day is a ‘school day’, and it is vital that you keep up with the latest developments and trends in each of the sectors you deal with.
Networking has often been compared to going on a blind date, and some of the same rules apply. Successful networking is all about making meaningful connections; people want to feel that you are genuinely interested in what they have to say. Keep good eye contact, smile, and ask relevant questions to highlight your interest. Research who is likely to be in attendance, and prepare questions; this will help avoid any awkward silences which can occur when you aren’t sure what to say. If you already have a bank of questions ready to go, the dreaded silence should stay at bay.
Going into a networking agenda with a strict corporate agenda is likely to make you feel uncomfortable and rigid. It is better to go in with the mindset that you are simply there to make a new friend – that way you are more likely to feel relaxed and you will be more successful.
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