Networking in business is one of the best resources for career development and professional success. A good network can provide job leads, possibilities for advancement and opportunities for personal improvement. If you hope to grow your career and increase your chances of professional success, you need to understand the importance of networking in business. In this article, we define networking, discuss how it can help you advance your career and offer tips for networking effectively.
Read more: 10 Tips to Help You Network Like a Pro
What is networking?
In business, networking is the act of maintaining a personal and professional contact list that you can use to help further your career. Your network is made up of all the people you interact with, all of whom could potentially offer you valuable professional assistance or guidance. To create and maintain a beneficial network, you must intentionally seek out opportunities to grow and expand your network. Your network can consist of a variety of people, including:
- Professors or fellow students
- Professionals in your field
- Clients or customers
- Personal acquaintances
- People you see at your church, gym or other local community centers
There are potential contacts everywhere, and making the most of connections like these can be significantly beneficial for your career. Intentionally broadening and maintaining your network is one of the most important steps you can take to increase your chances of professional success.
Why is networking important?
Networking allows you access to opportunities you might not be able to find on your own. Your network has the potential to provide you with insight into different fields, information on what potential employers look for and advice on how you can improve professionally. If you are willing to form and maintain the relationship, a single contact could get you into meetings or interviews with several companies without you having to work to form connections at each one.
Effective networking can save you time, effort and stress, so knowing how to use it effectively can be a powerful tool for your professional development. Networking can be beneficial in three specific ways:
1. The importance of networking in the workplace
One of the most obvious places to grow your network is in your workplace. Connections like these can provide you with referrals, job leads, mentoring and practical training. If you dedicate time and effort to getting to know your colleagues, they have the potential to help you advance in your current career or aid in the transition to a new one. Supervisors can write letters of recommendation, managers can give you inside information on an opening in another department and previous coworkers can refer you to their new employer.
Your workplace network can also help you improve as a professional and as an employee. A mentor who is willing to give you advice and guidance can help you gain maturity and experience. A coworker who has a specific technical skill might be willing to offer you training. These opportunities for self-improvement in the workplace can make you a more valuable employee and a more attractive candidate for future job searches.
Seeking out opportunities to expand your workplace network is as easy as starting a conversation in the break room. Reach out to your coworkers and find out their professional history, their role in the company and their career goals. Getting to know them gives you information about both how they can help you and how you may be able to benefit them.
2. The importance of networking for career development
Career development is essentially a map of your career journey. It begins with your education and ends when you retire. Career development includes the skills you acquired from your formal and informal education, the experience you gained at your first job and advancement opportunities you have in your current position. Networking is one of the most effective methods for accelerating the pace of your career development and providing you with new opportunities to succeed.
Your employer may provide you with official opportunities for career development, like training courses, seminars or certification exams. However, most of the responsibility for developing professionally falls on you. There are several ways you can use your professional network for career development. For instance, you could job shadow a friend who works for a competitor, audit one of your former professor’s courses or meet your employer to discuss career goals over coffee.
Career development is crucial for those seeking to grow professionally, and using your network can be a valuable tool. Try to identify those in your network who may be able to provide you with new skills and experiences. Staying in touch with contacts who work in a wide variety of fields and at a variety of levels can help you become a more informed and capable professional. If you stay connected and involved, you never know when an exciting development opportunity might present itself.
3. The importance of networking while job searching
The most common time for using your network is during a job search, since many positions are filled using personal contacts instead of advertisements. If you are looking for a new career, your network is almost certainly your most powerful tool. Your network can provide you with job leads, reference letters, job search advice and insight into new fields. So, before you start emailing your resume to strangers, you should start by sharing it with some of your most promising contacts.
One of the best methods for using your network while job searching is social media. If you share the fact that you are looking for work with your social circles on your online professional profile and other sites, chances are that someone on your contact list is aware of an open position. The possibilities for using your network to job search are broad. For example, you might send your resume to a specific contact who works in the field you are interested in or to a colleague who has connections in a different state.
Although you might not anticipate an upcoming career change, it is still a good idea to maintain your network consistently. You never know when you might need to find a new position quickly, and close relationships with your contacts could be your best chance for a successful career change. If you regularly invest time and effort into your professional network, you will be able to draw on its resources when you need them.
Read more: 7 Networking Tips for Getting a Job
Tips for networking effectively
Consider this advice on how to use your professional network effectively:
Look for the right people
Reach out to the people who can provide you with the specific help you need. If you are interested in a different field, connect with friends or family members who work in that industry. If you hope to switch to a new department in your workplace, talk to your colleagues who are a part of that team. You never know who might be able to help you at a later date, so make sure to connect with people working in a variety of industries and positions.
Cultivating your network year-round is crucial to maintaining beneficial connections. If you suddenly message a friend you have not spoken to since high school, they may not want to recommend you to their employer. Maintaining pleasant relationships with your extended network at all times, even just by sending a short email to say hello, is the best way to make sure they are willing to help when you need them.
Know how to give and take
It is important to keep track of what the different contacts in your network can offer you. You will need to remember which of your previous coworkers now works in finance or which started teaching philosophy. Equally important is to know what you have to offer as a contact. Ideally, networking should be mutually beneficial, so be sure to let your network know how you can help them. If you are willing to support your friends, they are more likely to return the favor.
Use your resources
It has become easier to maintain a professional network due to technology. The internet is a valuable resource for creating, cultivating and communicating with your contacts. Use social media platforms to reach out to professionals in your area, to reconnect with old friends and to start a conversation with the people you meet while on the job. Sending a friend request or a brief message to a new contact may help them remember you and encourage them to seek out a mutual relationship.
Seek out networking events
Socializing in person is still your best chance of creating a successful network. Attending company mixers, corporate retreats or community events will expose you to a variety of important contacts. Most likely, others at the events will also be networking and will be happy to exchange business cards or contact information. Be aware of your company’s social calendar, your alma mater’s reunion schedule and your community’s social scene to find promising events.