Before we go any further, the answer is yes — networking is necessary. But, before you panic, let me say that it doesn’t have to take the form of those dreadfully crowded conferences. Networking doesn’t have to be awkward, uncomfortable, inauthentic, or morally gray.
Believe it or not, there are ways to build a strong professional network with minimal effort and a clean conscience. Here’s why networking is vital to your career, and how you can grow your network throughout the course of your career:
Why Networking Is Essential for Success
They say it’s not what you know, but who you know — and it’s true that the most connected people are often the most successful. According to an infographic from Arizona State University, 70 percent of people in 2016 were hired due to a connection within the hiring company. That’s why investing in relationships — both professional and personal — is so incredibly important.
Beyond meeting mentors, forming relationships with potential partners and clients, and hearing about job opportunities before they hit the market, networking helps you to develop your skill set and stay on top of what’s going on in your industry.
But how does one build a successful network when the word “networking” strikes fear in their heart? Well, it’s surprisingly simple!
Networking Tips That Don’t Suck
Here’s the thing about networking: it’s not a “one size fits all” type of thing. It’s more of a “different strokes for different folks” kind of situation. Discovering your ideal networking style is the key to knowing where to go to meet the right people.
Remember, networking doesn’t have to be scary, awkward, or difficult. It’s all about building authentic, long-term, and mutually beneficial relationships with the people you meet — and that’s something you’ve been doing your whole life.
Find a Comfortable Place to Network
You don’t have to make an appearance at every industry conference or cocktail party to “do networking right.” All you really have to do is choose events and organizations that matter to you. Follow your passions and you’ll meet the right people. Look into community organizations, intramural sports, and volunteering opportunities. Not only will you truly enjoy yourself, you’ll expand your professional network in the process!
Network at Work
Many people assume that networking is something you do off the clock, but really, some of your most important networking can be done while you’re in the office! Networking within your workplace can be remarkably beneficial to your career. By building strong relationships with your co-workers, you can get insights into job leads and referrals for promotions. If your co-workers move on to other companies, they may even contact you with information on new job opportunities!
If you’ve ever been to a work conference, chances are you’ve had a conversation with someone that felt uncomfortable, inauthentic, or forced. That’s because it’s pretty easy to tell when someone’s attempting to connect with you purely for personal gain. To avoid being that person, you need to be genuine in your conversations with others. Be an active listener, ask questions, and build a rapport. Don’t attempt to connect with as many people as possible — instead, take your time and really bond with one to three people. Quality over quantity!
Keep It Going
Networking isn’t a one-off task. Once you’ve connected with someone, you have to continue to follow up. These follow-ups can take the form of phone calls, emails, social media messages, or good old-fashioned coffee dates. The more time and effort you put into the relationship, the more likely it is to be a beneficial one. Also, don’t overlook the value of simply having friends in the business world with no strings attached. Friendship is a benefit in and of itself.
Make It Reciprocal
You know what’s really great about networking? You get to help other people. I can’t stress enough just how awesome and rewarding it is to help someone meet their career goals. And, the fact of the matter is, to keep those professional relationships strong, both parties have to benefit in some way.
Be on the lookout for opportunities that will provide value to the people in your professional network before they ask for help. The more you learn about your business friends, the easier it will be to offer some assistance. You can send them interesting industry news or job opportunities, or you can introduce them to someone else in your network!
Networking is definitely essential to career success. Done right, it will not only help you find a job, improve your skills, and stay on top of industry trends, it will also give you a competitive advantage in every stage of your career. So start building relationships, forming bonds, and giving and getting advice. When the time comes that you need help, you just may find that you know exactly who to call.
By: Liz Greene