Certified Resume Writer, Career Coach, Business Writer
Even if you’ve worked hard to earn a degree from an impressive school, landing your dream job might still come down to who you know – otherwise known as networking. Lots of qualified candidates might apply for a job, but the person who gets it might very well be so-and-so’s sibling, friend, or kid. Sometimes the only way to get your foot in the door is to know someone.
If you’re looking for an answer to the question “why is networking important?” you’ve come to the right place. This article will explain why job seekers (and professionals in general) should network and how they can do so effectively. Keep reading to learn more.
What is Networking (or Professional Networking)?
Let’s start with a definition of networking. What exactly is it anyway? On the surface, it looks like it’s just a term that refers to meeting new people. In a way it is, but there’s one thing that differentiates networking – especially professional networking – from meeting new friends. That is the connections you form when networking are intended to further your career (and the career of the other person too). Mutually beneficial in nature, networking occurs when you introduce yourself to colleagues and other professionals for the purpose of advancing your career.
There are several different kinds of professional networking. You can find them listed below.
The Types of Networking
- Operational Networking: This type of networking refers to building intra-organizational relationships. What in the world does intra-organizational mean? That’s just a fancy way of saying your colleagues (or relationships between people from different departments in a single company).
- Personal Networking: Most people think of personal networking when they’re considering using this method to help secure a new job. It refers to connecting with individuals in your industry from other organizations outside your own.
- Strategic Networking: When you combine both operational and personal networking, you end up with what’s known as strategic networking. In this case, you’d enlist the support of anyone you believe will assist you in achieving your goals.
Why is Networking Important for Your Career Growth?
There are many reasons why it’s crucial to network with others to advance your career. As they say, no man is an island. You will inevitably need others in your professional life to thrive. Even if you’re not the most outgoing person on the planet, networking will benefit you and your career in many ways. Let’s talk more about the importance of networking.
Networking Creates Opportunities
This is one of the biggest reasons why people network. By getting to know others, you increase the odds that they will think of you when the next opportunity comes along. Maybe you need a new business partner or someone who knows of a job opening. If you’ve impressed them with your enthusiasm, intelligence, and positive attitude, you might just hear from them. This is the beauty of networking in a nutshell.
Networking Boosts Your Knowledge
One clear advantage of networking is that it will increase your industry knowledge. How can it not? As you converse with others who work in the same field, you’ll discover their processes, struggles, resolutions, and ideas. This exchange of information and ideas is invaluable and highly beneficial. Your network contacts may very well introduce you to new techniques, skills, and technologies related to your job. They might light a fire under you and inspire you to think differently.
Additionally, networking helps build social and communication skills, which are necessary for success as you advance your career.
Networking Builds Your Reputation
Think about how essential it is to establish a personal brand online. Initially, it’s how people, including strangers, get to know you. In the same vein, networking can grow and enhance your professional reputation. By sharing valuable industry information and opinions with others, you might build a reputation as an expert in your field. This may very well eventually open doors of opportunity for you.
Beyond establishing yourself as knowledgeable, you can also use networking to show your connections that you are compassionate, creative, altruistic, or supportive of others. As you engage with others in your field, actively listen to them so they feel heard, and be willing to go out of your way to help them. Trust us, this kind of behavior will pay off in dividends later.
Networking Increases Your Confidence
Many people shy away from networking because it seems intimidating. They don’t necessarily love the idea of attending a networking conference so they can awkwardly mingle with lots of people they don’t know. But sometimes pushing yourself out of your comfort zone can be very rewarding. Yes, it might feel scary to reach out to a stranger, but over time, they’ll no longer be a stranger. Instead, they might play a valuable role in helping you advance your career. At some point, they might even become a friend with shared interests. Even if the connection doesn’t pan out in the long run, you will increase your confidence simply by putting yourself out there and opening yourself up to new experiences.
Networking Has Social Benefits
As humans, we are social creatures at heart – even those of us who are introverted and love our alone time. Connecting with someone else, particularly if they share similar aspirations and interests, can do wonders for our well-being and mental health. Initiating a new connection can be nerve-wracking at first, but it can lead to an amazing friendships, professional relationships, or even mentorships.
Networking implies a give-and-take relationship. While others in your network might help you, you will also be put in the position of being able to provide guidance and opportunities to others too, which will naturally enrich your life and increase your happiness.
Networking Introduces You to Leaders
Even if you’re only in school or have an entry-level job, it’s completely feasible that you can reach out and form relationships with industry veterans. You’ll be surprised at how many of them will be very willing to go out of their way to assist those coming after them. With years of knowledge and experience under their belt, you can gain so much from this type of connection – maybe even a mentor. Since they’ve been there before, you can trust that their advice will be on point. And being further up the food chain, they will be privy to opportunities that you might otherwise never hear about. Their wisdom may prove integral to your career development and growth.
Stats That Prove the Importance of Networking
If you read the list above and still don’t see the value in networking (no way!), rest assured that there are also many statistics that show how beneficial this tool can be in your professional life. Sometimes the proof is in the numbers… er, pudding. Many studies have shown the importance of networking in one’s career. Let’s take a look, shall we?
- According to CNBC, seven out of 10 job vacancies aren’t advertised publicly. (This means you need to know someone to find out about them!)
- The Harvard Business Review published the statistic that 95% of people in the workplace believe that networking face-to-face is the key to maintaining long-term professional relationships.
- Event Manager Blog says that almost 70% of event planners land new clients at networking conferences.
- Eighty percent of LinkedIn users think that networking boosts their career growth. Source: LinkedIn
- Another LinkedIn survey showed that more than 70% of respondents were hired by companies where they had a LinkedIn connection.
- According to Jobvite, 35% of folks find new job opportunities through friends.
There are lots more statistics that could be included on this list. The main takeaway is that if two job candidates have similar qualifications, chances are good that the person who knows someone will get the job.
Who Should You Build a Network With?
Hopefully by now you’re sold on the idea of networking and understand all its professional benefits. The next logical question is: who should you network with? What kinds of people? The simplest answer is anyone and everyone. Even if they aren’t directly related to your field in any way, they might know someone who is! You just never know, so don’t limit yourself.
Here are some ideas to get you started on your networking journey:
- Friends and personal acquaintances
- Colleagues (or colleagues or colleagues)
- Industry experts and veterans
- Alumni and former classmates
- Former managers
- Employees of companies you’re targeting
- Vendors and suppliers
- Folks at networking events
- Service providers (like your hair stylist, landscaper, and doctor)
- Fellow volunteers and church members
- Community members
We could probably come up with even more groups of people who would be great to network with; however, this gives you an excellent starting point. As you can see, almost anyone can be a valuable part of your network.
How to Network Effectively
Now we come to the meat and potatoes of this article. In other words, what are the steps you should take to network with others? How can you become an effective and efficient networker? We’ve laid out some tips below that will help you accomplish this. Don’t worry; it’s not hard! You can do it.
Tip #1: Be Proactive
You can’t just send a few Connect requests on LinkedIn and consider yourself done. You must invest time and effort into building a network and then maintaining it. Remember, the more you put in, the more you’ll get out. So comment on posts, occasionally make phone calls or shoot off an email, and offer advice and guidance when you think it’s warranted. Keep yourself top-of-mind by staying in touch with your network.
Tip #2: Be Patient
Meaningful relationships aren’t built in a day. They take time. So relax, but keep consistently making small overtures over time and they’ll eventually pay off.
Tip #3: Be Giving
Don’t forget that networking is supposed to be mutually beneficial. This means that, although you can be strategic and aware of what others can do for you, it’s necessary to provide guidance, ideas, and opportunities to your contacts too. Your networking relationships should be a give-and-take, not just a take.
Tip #4: Be Resourceful
Unlike in the past, it’s easy to stay connected using social media and the internet these days. While it’s still advantageous to attend networking conferences and events, now you can easily stay in touch (and with more people) via LinkedIn, email, and other social media platforms. Use all the resources at your disposal to build and cultivate your network.
Tip #5: Be Selective
Now, in the previous section, we encouraged you to network with anyone you can, and this advice remains intact. But if you have a specific goal in mind, don’t hesitate to be thoughtful about who you contact and when. Whether you’re trying to switch divisions, companies, or industries, reach out to the folks who can potentially help you make this move. Be strategic.
How to Network When You’re Shy or Introverted
Networking can be intimidating, even to people who aren’t shy. But if you are an introvert, it can pose even more of a challenge. Since the nature of networking is to approach people you don’t know, introduce yourself, and strike up conversations, it can be a struggle for anyone, honestly. Here are some workarounds if the idea of networking makes your skin crawl:
- Find Small Events: That’s right. You don’t have to seek out and attend a 500-person networking convention unless this is something that interests you. Instead, look for smaller groups who share your interests. Attending a five-person dinner might be more up your alley.
- Use the Internet: A large portion of your networking can be done over the internet without any face-to-face contact. Build up your networks on various social media platforms and then follow up by posting content and reaching out over instant messenger or email. Eventually you might need to have a phone call or in-person meeting, but a lot of your networking can be done on the computer.
- Bring a Friend: It can be a lot easier to walk into a networking event with a friend by your side. Especially one who understands that small talk isn’t your favorite activity. If all goes well, you can rely on their outgoing personality to get some conversations started that you can then be a part of too.
Networking Basics, Dos and Don’ts
There are lots of people who have gone before you. Learn from them! Below are some Dos and Don’ts. Follow these guidelines and achieve networking success.
- Be Honest: Nobody likes a fake. Be genuine and sincere. Don’t use somebody for personal gain; instead, create a real relationship that’s based on give-and-take.
- Be Prepared: If you meet up for coffee with a new contact or attend a networking conference, dress the part and have business cards at the ready with your contact information on them.
- Follow Up: Be sure to send thank you notes to the folks you meet at networking events. And if you say you’re going to do something for someone, make sure you do it.
- Be Afraid: It can be scary to put yourself out there, but trust that it’ll be worth it (it will!) Even if you only go to a single networking event, multiple contacts are bound to come out of it. And don’t be afraid to introduce yourself – people will respond if you’re kind, curious, and polite.
- Be Intimidated by Others: You might be tempted to hold some people in high esteem because they’ve accomplished a lot or are popular and confident. While this is fine, don’t put them on a pedestal. Recognize that nobody is better than anyone else.
- Hog the Conversation: Make sure to listen to others. Sometimes people tend to only think about what they want to say next during a conversation. Avoid this and really try to listen and learn from the people around you.
Remember: Networking is a Skill
As you can see, building a network is a great way to advance your career. The people you get to know might become mentors, friends, or confidants. Because of them, you might land a new position, switch industries, or improve how you do your current job. Don’t overlook this essential skill. Invest in networking and you’ll reap the rewards for years to come.