Most of our lives consist of networks - through familial ties and the friendships we form. These networks give us access to valuable information and opportunities. Any time you approach your friends for a favour, you are utilising your network. This is different to professional networking - where you connect with people in the same industry as you. Depending on your personality, professional networking can be draining and time-consuming. Nonetheless, professional networking is important for career advancement and even career development.
A study conducted by LinkedIn evidenced that:
- 80% of professionals consider networking to be important for career progression
- 60% of professionals agree that continued online interaction with their network can possibly lead to a job offer
These statistics are corroborated with plenty of studies that prove the importance of networking for career success. In fact, many of them also found that more than half of job offers are unadvertised and are passed through word of mouth. Therefore, if one of your goals is to attain career success, professional networking is essential.
How important is networking, anyway?
Maybe you are very comfortable in your current position, and so, you don't see the need to engage in networking. Except that networking is not just about finding job opportunities. Professional networking exposes you to mentors and advisors that will help you improve your skill set, keeps you updated on the latest industry trends and gives you access to resources to further your career.
Even in your workplace, networking is a crucial skill - especially when you have just started out. Building good relations with your colleagues and senior managers will ensure that you have a good working environment. Not only that, this will help you be considered for any promotions or big projects. If you happen to be looking for another job, a good employee referral will increase your chances immensely.
Networking is about creating and maintaining long-term, mutually beneficial relationships with the people you meet.
Professional networking does get a bad rap sometimes as being artificial and forced. Additionally, there are many individuals out there who are only networking to get ahead or take advantage of others. So, it is understandable that professional networking might make you apprehensive. Yet, if you were to approach networking with the mindset of creating genuine connections, it will become a lot easier for you.
Just like any other skill, there are steps you can take to hone your prowess in networking. Fortunately, we have come up with 4 steps that you can take to become an effective networker.
1. Evaluate what style works for you
Everyone works differently and it is no different when it comes to networking styles. Remember, networking is about building genuine connections. If you find yourself forcing to make friends or talk to people, it may very well backfire. Instead, find out how you make friends and work from there. If you are an introvert, try attending small networking events or even establishing better relationships with acquaintances.
2. Go beyond professional networking events
Connections are not just created at professional events, it can literally be created anywhere! Ideally, you should start at a place where your interests lie. This can be through volunteering, sports teams or community clubs. In these events, you can bond over your shared interests and build a relationship from there. One tip: Skill-based voluntary work allows you to utilise your professional skills to give back to the community and provide opportunities for networking with people in your industry.
3. Make a game plan
This step is especially useful when you attend professional networking events. It is always helpful to have a clear idea of what you want to achieve when you go into a networking session. Would you like to get to know someone better? How about making new friends? Or would you prefer to just gather insights that you can discuss with your co-workers later? Subsequently, you'd have a clear direction of what you should research on so that you can be prepared for the event.
4. Post-networking etiquette
A step that many professionals forget, it is crucial for you to continue building the relationship after the event has ended. This will ensure that the friends you have made will remember you. After a professional event, you can drop a LinkedIn request with a short personalised message. Alternatively, if you made friends with someone outside of a professional event, be sure to drop them a request on their preferred social media account. These accounts will allow you to remain in touch with your connections and deepen your ties with them. Just like in any relationship there is give and take. So, be sure to provide opportunities for your connections when they extend that courtesy to you.
The currency of real networking is not greed but generosity. - Keith Ferrazzi
While it may seem like a soft skill, there are still tangible results that can be measured from successful networking. Networking may seem daunting at first, but it will definitely get better the longer you practice at it.