Despite being a key skill in building a successful career, many people are not networking. While networking is not easy for everyone, it is a skill worth developing as it is still one of the most effective and least expensive ways to advance your career.
Networking often gets a bad reputation as a place where fast-talking people are looking to shake hands, tell you what they do, and pass out as many business cards as possible. Networking goes beyond collecting business cards and a single meeting. Effective networking involves building a strong well-connected network of relationships. And in reality, whether we do it well or not so well, we network every day. We do it with family, friends, colleagues, clients, and acquaintances.
In its most basic form, networking is forming and building relationships. If you only take (or sell), your network will be weak. If you mainly help and give, your network will be strong. Always approach networking with the hopes of providing value to others. Give before you take or ask. To many, this may seem counter-intuitive, but it works.
Importance of Networking
The importance of networking is easily seen when we look at a few of the current statistics.
- 70 – 80% of jobs are obtained through our network
- Best jobs are rarely advertised
- Employers are more like to hire candidates that are referred
How to Network
Identify and target connections that are relevant to your goals, industry, interests, and/or skill set. Relevance can be according to such things as location, social grouping, industry, and gender. The more relevant your targeting of groups, the easier it will be to build relationships. Direct your efforts beyond obvious business people and networking groups, but be mindful of the nature of the group and conduct yourself appropriately.
The clearer you’ve identified your career goals, the easier the path to get there. The same goes for networking. The more specific your networking goals, the better the results when networking to reach your goals. When deciding who to network with or which events to attend, be sure to evaluate your upcoming career goals.
While there is no single way of networking that works for everyone, here are some tips for successful networking:
- Be genuine
- Ask open-ended questions
- Focus on quality vs. quantity
- Make eye contact
- Find something in common
- Don’t wait until you need something to network
Never underestimate the power of connections. One fleeting connection can be built into a long-lasting relationship that turns out to be vital. Whether in terms of your life or career, each connection you make can mean all the difference. After all, who is doing today what they did 20 years ago? These relationships that we build are not just about securing opportunities but inspiring others, exchanging ideas, and collaboration.