Networking isn’t merely the exchange of information with others — and it’s certainly not about begging for favors. Networking is about establishing and nurturing long-term, mutually beneficial relationships with the people you meet, whether you’re waiting to order your morning coffee, participating in an intramural sports league, or attending a work conference.
Experts agree that the most connected people are often the most successful. When you invest in your relationships — professional and personal — it can pay you back in dividends throughout the course of your career. Networking will help you develop and improve your skill set, stay on top of the latest trends in your industry, keep a pulse on the job market, meet prospective mentors, partners, and clients, and gain access to the necessary resources that will foster your career development.
Professional networking simply means building professional relationships. It is about meeting and establishing mutually-beneficial connections with people in your profession or industry. The goal of networking is to build a professional network: a group of people who would do you a favor for, and who would do a favor for you.
The Importance of Networking for Career Development
The importance of the professional network shouldn’t be underestimated. It is hugely advantageous for job hunters in particular. It is not something you should only think about when you’re job hunting. It should be a part of your work life and something you invest in over time. All relationships work in both directions so you can’t just expect to reap the benefits, you have to reach out to others when they need help.
As you network with people at your company, in your industry, and even outside your field of interest, you’ll uncover opportunities to connect with different types of mentors and advisors, increase your visibility with senior management, further develop your areas of expertise, and improve your soft skills.
Becoming an Effective Networker
- Figure out what networking style works best for you.
- Network outside the box
- Make a game plan
- Follow up
- Pay it forward
It’s never too early — or too late — to invest in your network. The best way to improve your networking skills is to put yourself out there and give it a try.
According to Baikowitz, “the worst networking mistake you can make is not trying at all.”