04 Jan The Importance of Networking In Your Career
Networking is marketing. Marketing yourself, marketing your uniqueness, marketing what you stand for.
– Christine Comaford-Lynch
How much time have you invested over the last three months in building your network and strengthening your professional relationships?
Most of us spend an inordinate amount of time in building our technical skills and expanding our knowledge base. We see networking events and work place get-togethers as superfluous activities and skip them when we can get away with it. What we often neglect however, and usually at a very heavy price, is the fact that networking plays almost as important a role as your performance when it comes to succeeding in your career.
Networking refers to connecting with other professionals, with an aim of improving your career prospects and expanding your horizons. Surveys show that as many as 41% of job-seekers get hired through networks. This is particularly true for appointment to positions that are higher up in the company hierarchy. Besides, networking keeps you aware of new trends in the industry and connects you with people, technology and resources that are vital for your progress. And perhaps most importantly, networking helps you garner visibility, credibility and good will – the three things that can take you places!
Why we shy away from networking
Most people consider networking an unnecessary burden on their already scarce time, energy and resources. They believe that the value of networking is purely recreational and that it is a dispensable, redundant part of their work lives. Many people are also innately uncomfortable with the ambiguity that surrounds the concept of networking events: they don’t quite have the easy, casual atmosphere of a social get-together, but they are not entirely formal or professional either. Sometimes, networking can be awkward, because of the belief that you are reaching out to people because you need something from them.
What you stand to gain by not playing solo
You might think that connecting with colleagues and other professionals within your industry is over and above the call of duty, and technically you may be right. But choosing to network will put you at considerable advantage over your non-networking colleagues (a species that is on its way to extinction!). And it is not only beneficial for those seeking new opportunities – a 2008 study reveals that networking is related to both growth in salaries and job satisfaction. In other words, people who spend time developing rewarding relationships with other professionals report better growth and more contentment in their jobs than those who don’t.
There are some very obvious advantages to being more social at work – the more active you are in your professional networks, the greater the likelihood that you will be considered for that exciting new opportunity or that challenging assignment that will put you on the map. Knowing people with different skills, capabilities and profiles puts you in a better position to handle more complex, challenging projects. In short, networking makes you a part of a professional ecosystem, and you need to be a part of an ecosystem to survive and thrive.
How to network effectively
Choose your connections wisely. Given the numerous constraints on your time and resources, you have to be mindful of whom you connect with. Choose people who can enrich you in some way and value-add to your networking experience – people who have varied skills, people who are knowledgeable about their profession and people who are well connected.
Maintain boundaries. It is easy to get carried away in networking events, because the boundaries are so ambiguous and the rules are so arbitrary. But when you socialize in a work related context, remember that they are still your colleagues. Any transgression of boundaries or inappropriate words or actions will make your work-life awkward and will impact your image at your work place.
Use networking websites effectively. Networking has become much easier in recent times, with the advent of social and professional networking websites. Use these networks to locate people who are experienced, and who hold positions that you covet. Websites such as LinkedIn hold much potential when it comes to building professional relationships, and are a veritable source of information and connections.
Attend networking events when you can. Next time you get an invite for a networking event, suppress the urge to stash it away and forget about it. Think of these events as opportunities to expand your network and grow, and try to participate whenever you can. Remember, venture not, gain not.
Don’t just develop relationships, maintain them. Don’t wait till you need someone to call them. The key to building mutually rewarding and lasting relationships is to not relate purely on a need-to basis. Take some time out of your busy schedule to stay in touch with the people in your network.
Pay back (or forward) favors when you can. Make it a point to help others when they reach out to you. Make a particular note of those who have helped you in the past, and don’t forget to thank them. A little reciprocal altruism goes a long way in making your career successful and fulfilling.
As a popular African proverb puts it, if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go with others.
RELATED IN THE BUSINESS DISTRICT…
Latest posts by Ramya Navin (see all)
- Communication Faux-Pas at Work: Are we on the same page? - January 16, 2017
- Taking the Plunge: Your Guide to Negotiating Career Risks Smartly - October 24, 2016
- Leading Effectively: Why Transformational Leadership Is The Way To Go - March 8, 2016