Updated: Jun 9, 2020
Networking is not at the top of everyone’s to-do list. When your calendar is already overcrowded with work appointments and family commitments, the last thing you want to do is make small talk at another after-work event. However, in today’s fast-paced and connected world, networking is more important than ever. There is no denying that the power of a strong professional network can have a tremendous impact on advancing your career. The importance of Hellen Keller’s saying “alone, we do so little; together we can do so much” has proved to be a reason why many have achieved professional success and career advancement. For many, the causes of their success have largely been because of the network they have created over time and the power of the network in their growth and development.
Networking is more than showing up at an event, handing out business cards or having 500+ connections on LinkedIn, and it is certainly not begging for jobs. Networking is about nurturing long-term relationships with people you meet. For some, networking happens at events for their professional association, in line at their favorite coffee shop, at their child’s sporting event, before that important work meeting gets going, or at a work conference. For others, networking is easier done by asking someone out for coffee or lunch. Either way, for every conference, cocktail party, and lunch meet-up, come prepared by knowing who you are meeting with and what topics will ignite conversation. Take the time to get to know the person and be interested in learning about their journey. Ask them things about their career and advice they would have for you, such as “what they wish they would have known when they were first becoming active in their industry.”
When it is done well, networking will give you a competitive edge in your current job and throughout every stage of your career. Networking will not only help you land your next job faster, it will help you build important skills to become a better leader, stay on top of the latest trends in your industry, learn about new industries, and will help you foster a rewarding career. Here are 3 ways your career can benefit from networking:
1. It builds your confidence: By continually putting yourself out there and meeting new people, you are effectively building invaluable leadership skills that are vital to becoming a strong leader. The more you network and have conversations with people, the more you will build your expertise in reading the queues of those you are taking with and grow your emotional intelligence. You are also approaching every conversation as an opportunity to learn, inviting the input and feedback from others, and taking time to reflect on what you learned when you network. Each of these experiences can help you to become a more agile leader. As the business climate continues to experience high-speed change, leaders must become more agile to make smart but fast decisions, improvise and move quickly in another direction, and become comfortable experimenting with new approaches to get around obstacles in the way.
2. It expands your opportunities: Expanding your network helps you keep a pulse on the job market and can open doors to new opportunities for career advancement. Active networking helps to keep you top of mind when job opportunities arise and increases your likelihood of receiving introductions to potentially relevant people or even a referral. Networking also helps you meet prospective mentors / career advisors who, as experienced peers, open the door to discuss common challenges as well as offer valuable suggestions and guidance from those whose footsteps you are following. On the other hand, offering your experience to your contacts also sets a strong foundation for receiving support when you need it in return.
3. It helps you find a job you love: Your network can be an excellent source of new perspective and ideas to help you navigate your career. The changes in the business world are creating new roles in organizations and new gaps in the market. Through networking, you can learn about new and fascinating ways to bring your skills and experiences to non-traditional job opportunities. For instance, the explosion of digital health and telemedicine is creating new opportunities for healthcare professionals and administrators outside the traditional hospital setting. If you have an entrepreneurial spirit, learning about emerging business challenges can be a way for you to fill a need in the market. Exchanging information on challenges, experiences and goals allows you to gain new insight that you might not have otherwise thought of. Similarly, offering your experiences and ideas is an excellent way to build your reputation.
It is never too early — or too late — to invest in building your network. When you put yourself out there and give it a try, you not only improve your networking skills, you gain valuable skills and knowledge to advance your career. The bottom line is that networking is a science that, when practiced, will be rewarded with amazing new relationships and a more fulfilling career.