Can’t network, won’t network: The British Library vows to get the nation’s entrepreneurs talking as new research reveals that over half of Britons are networking-phobics

  • ComRes poll for the British Library reveals that 62% of British adults who are in or looking for work have never attended a networking event, despite over half (54%) recognising that it is very important for professional development
  • Half (51%) of the people surveyed report feeling uncomfortable when networking, and common anxieties include being stuck with someone that you don’t want to talk to (51%), and not knowing anyone (50%)
  • For those who have made the leap, networking works: four in five (81%) of those who have networked report benefits such as making contacts and getting useful advice

Despite the ease of digital communication and social media, effective face-to-face networking is still recognised as an important tool for professional success. During next week’s Global Entrepreneurship Week (17-22 Nov), the British Library’s Business & IP Centre will be celebrating the art of networking with an events programme aimed at entrepreneurs and start-up businesses, for whom developing their ‘little black book’ is more important than ever as they strike out on their own.

Key findings of a survey of 1162 British adults who are currently in or looking for full time or part time work conducted by the British Library and ComRes revealed that these skills are in demand, with only 38% of adults who are working or seeking work saying they have attended a networking event, despite over half (54%) recognising that it is important for professional development.

Common anxieties include being stuck with someone that you don’t want to talk to (51%), not knowing anyone (50%), and introducing yourself to people you don’t know (42%). The survey found that typical tactics employed by networkers include having talking points ready (37%), pairing up with a friend or colleague to avoid speaking to people on your own (36%) and locating a person standing by themselves and beginning a conversation (32%).

Despite the anxieties expressed around networking, there are some positive attitudes towards it, with one in five (20%) respondents feeling hopeful about networking, and a quarter (28%) reporting that they will pinpoint the person they want to find and find a way to approach them, or research who will be there in advance (23%).

Rasheed Ogunlaru, the business coach and author of ‘Soul Trader’, who will be leading the networking skills sessions at the British Library, said:

“Perhaps more than anyone else, networking is key for those starting or growing a business. When I chat to small business owners and sole traders an overwhelming majority say that most of their business comes from their own network and contacts that they have made through a business event or introduction. Everyone will have their own style and approach, but what’s important is making sure you’re getting the most out of your experience."

“A lot of the common fears about networking expressed in this survey, such as introducing yourself to new people, can be easily tackled with a few top tips."

“The ‘Networking for Success’ sessions being held at the British Library next week will be all honing those practical skills and learning how to network effectively. "

Other British Library events and activities during Global Entrepreneurship Week include:

  • An event in conversation with the co-founder of Ryanair airlines, Kell Ryan (18 Nov)
  • ‘Inspiring Entrepreneurs: Question Time’ sponsored by Barclays, with speakers including Sir Charles Dunstone (founder of TalkTalk and Chairman of Carphone Warehouse), designer Anya Hindmarch MBE, Kanya King MBE (founder of the MOBO awards), and Tom Pellereau, inventor and Series 7 winner of the Apprentice (17 Nov)
  • The ‘Inspiring Entrepreneurs’ panel will be live webcast to audiences in Birmingham and Liverpool, and available to watch for free online
  • We’ll be hosting the biggest ever Start-Up Saturday with Enterprise Nation on 22 November
  • We’ll be running free webinars throughout the week on all the essentials for starting and growing your business, as well as a speed-mentoring session

For more information about the British Library’s Global Entrepreneurship Week programme, visit the website or follow #BLGEW.

Notes to Editors

Rasheed Ogunlaru is a business coach and author of ‘Soul Trader’ – more info here

ComRes interviewed 1162 GB adults who are in full or part time work or seeking work, online between 24 and 16 October 2014. Full results available online at ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.

The British Library’s vision is to create a National Network of Business & IP Centres across the UK offering a free, trusted and valuable service for the nation’s entrepreneurs, so that anyone starting or running a business has a central place to go, in their local area, for support, inspiration and information.

For more information:

Sophie McIvor
The British Library
t: +44 (0)20 7412 7790

Evenings and weekends:
+44 (0) 20 7412 7150

Press Office contacts

The British Library is the national library of the UK and one of the world’s greatest libraries. The Business & IP Centre, based at St Pancras in London, opened in March 2006 with the help of London Development Agency funding. Since then, it has welcomed over 350,000 people through the doors and has an excellent track record in supporting entrepreneurs and SMEs from all walks of life to start and grow businesses. The Centre provides free access to an unparalleled resource of business and intellectual property information (over £5 million worth), supplemented by one-to-one advice clinics, practical workshops and networking events, featuring ‘role model’ entrepreneurs.