Chris Weetman looks at the importance of networking to planners.
A friend of mine who works in planning recently equated networking with going to the pub, which amused me.
It essentially says ‘I’m comfortable with people I know around me and who, like me, enjoy a social, relaxing drink’.
But the reality is networking is much more than that: it's about information sharing between planners and other disciplines in the built environment.
It's about making contacts from both private consultancies and public-sector planning departments, and it's also about exchanging ideas and beliefs and challenging theories or rigid ideas.
When I was managing in local government I was keen on staff networking with other local planning authorities (LPAs).
And now I work in the private sector, I network. I am a member of the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) Independent Consultants Network.
We have a forum to exchange appeal decisions, case law, argue about interpretations of policy and have occasional rants.
Sometimes those in a local area will get together and go to the pub too. Whatever, it is invaluable, and I could not do my job without networking.
But that’s just one form of networking. Other forums like Trevor Roberts Associates Planning Admin network, and PAS’s forums are geared towards LPA staff - I’m also a member.
Why? Because it helps me do my job, it helps me be better at what I do, and it puts me in the public arena.
Then there’s Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin. After doing face-to-face presentations for Trevor Roberts Associates I’ve had LPA officers go online and ask to ‘link with me’.
They see the benefits of networking and so do I because I accept their requests. Networking is not just for the private sector and it's not just for senior managers in the public sector. It's for everyone.
How much you get out of it depends on how much you put in, but if you want to raise your profile above the surroundings of your office then get out there and communicate.
After all, a future employer may be using exactly the same networks as you and this could put you slap bang on their radar.
Chris Weetman is an independent planning consultant, an associate of Trevor Roberts Associates and a former head of planning.