I picked up an interesting question from a blog comment today, which was whether someone who wanted to develop a career as a consultant in sport (specifically sport psychology) should start off in academia, or go into practice first. Their thinking was that an academic route might help them build up their reputation as an expert.
Some six months ago, Rob Robson called Mike Garth for some help providing sport psychology support to a karting client. Rob through his iStadia network was aware of Mike's strong connection, history and target market in motor sport. Mike helped Rob and didn't expect anything in return - that's networking.
Then in June, Rob called Mike and referred him to a medical doctor (and part-time national rally driver) who was updating his book 'Fit For Motorsport' and was looking for a sport psychologist to re-edit and update the psychology chapter. Mike subsequently carried out the work.
An opportunity then came Mike's way (by other means) to work on a TV programme which involved the co-author of the Fit For Motorsport book. The quality of the rapport between Mike and the co-author was vastly increased by the fact Mike had already worked on his book. This working relationship has increased to the extent that they are now arranging a joint venture between themselves, which involves a major motorsport manufacturer!
Rob's used his iStadia network to get some help which opened a door to further networking and in Mike's words 'Rob opened a opened a door, but without that open door, would I now be arranging this powerful joint venture?' The answer is clearly no. The true value of networking is to provide help without expecting anything in return but the more you help others the more likely they will think of you when an appropriate opportunity arises.
Mike kindly posted this to the Referrals Forum 'to give evidence for the true power of networking and the available power of iStadia to us all'.
It is easy to build your network, just invite those that you might be able to help or subsequently may be able to help you. When you sign in to iStadia, you are presented with your MyStadia - recommendations of those that have interests in similar fields to yourself and all you need do is click on the relevant name. Otherwise you can search the directoryfor others you may be interested in, particularly those who have complimentary skills to you eg. a physiologist may want access to a nutrtionist, an agent working on a sponsorship deal may need a sports lawyer, a sport psychologist may want to refer a client to a strength and conditioning specialist and so on.
Your network can get you business - it is worth investing the time to build it up.
Don't confuse social networking with chatting and swapping messages and photos with your friends online. For ‘social networking' you can substitute ‘contact networking' or ‘business networking'. Social networking (the commonly accepted term) at its most fundamental is the ability the internet gives people to share their experience, develop powerful networks and contacts as well as telling everyone what they do or specialize in. You can't do this any other way, not to as many people or potential clients - locally, nationally or globally.
Such sites work because users contribute information (add content) and collect it for a huge variety of reasons. There are those that also collect information and then share it back for the benefit of all. iStadia does both. Sites that have maximized this opportunity are the well known ones - MySpace, Bebo, LinkedIn and Facebook. In the latter's case they have 20m users worldwide so think about accessing the global sport and exercise market! These sites have experienced huge growth as people have discovered the power of connecting with others either supplementing their existing social networks or finding new contacts and friends.
There are many reasons to engage in professional networking, particularly using online communities such as iStadia.com, but one of the most compelling of these may be the contribution that it can make to Continuing Professional Development (CPD).
What is CPD?
Professional development is something that should be of interest to most of our members - whether students going through an intensive period of learning; professionals in training; or experienced, qualified professionals. CPD as a term applies specifically to the latter of these groups, and refers to the process of managing one's own development and growth as a professional, but the content of this article is pertinent to anyone who is interested in developing their knowledge, skills and competencies in any field.