7 Benefits of Building Your Network
Networking – Links, Leverage, and Long-Term Relationships
The good, the bad, and the necessary – networking. To newcomers, networking can be a daunting task, as learning this professional skill requires confidence, tact, and – most importantly – intent. What is it about networking that makes so many industry professionals salivate at the sound of a training conference, an industry dinner, or an in-house event? This article will help to answer why networking is crucial at every stage of your career, and why the higher up the ladder you go, the more necessary networking becomes.
You might have heard of high-profile meetings that happen over fancy dinners between big CEOs and well-endowed hedge fund managers, and although networking can look like that, it will most commonly show up in the relationships and in the connections around you. This begs the question – What is networking? A network is a community of professionals that are connected and have similar or complementary business interests. Often this includes the colleagues you have in your current role, past colleagues, and people you attended university or high school with. This group of connections may even include people that you know from different areas in your personal life, so if you were ever part of a society in university, or you played sport on the national team, these people can also count as your network.
The reason why networking is so important is that it is one avenue that can help both your personal and career development. This becomes even more evident the further along in your career you are – no matter the industry – because of the plentiful ways that a network can either aid or delay your progress. Here are seven ways to show you the benefits of networking.
You may have heard Warren Buffet saying, ‘It takes twenty years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.’ It’s true, we live in a highly connected world where someone’s words about you can end your career. It’s for this exact reason that strategic networking can add to your reputation and help build your career – like a Lego set. By being more deliberate about who you are connected to, you can find yourself walking alongside industry pioneers, which could help you become one yourself.
Additionally, networking can boost the visibility of your work in your current role. The best way to do this is to engage in meaningful conversations with colleagues who are the key people in your team and department. This can be helpful if you want to switch into a different role in your company, or if you wish to be promoted. The saying goes, ‘What gets measured gets done,’ and we want to add that ‘what gets done gets seen, and only what gets seen gets approved’.
Once you get used to speaking to colleagues from different departments, or different areas in your industry, you might find that networking can become a good way to exercise self-confidence. Not only does networking give you the chance to perfect your 30-second elevator pitch about who you are and what you do, but it can also give you a better understanding of the value you have to offer. This is because good networking is a relationship where two or more people have value-added propositions, whether that proposition is an activity, a skill, or another connection – it’s all perceived value. As a result, the more networking you do, the more self-aware you can become of your needs, and the needs that you can meet.
Whenever you attend a networking event, it can be a good chance for you to learn more about your industry or an adjacent industry, from people experiencing current market trends from a different perspective. Whether you speak to various people at one networking event, or you focus on building your network one intentional person at a time, it can help you stay plugged into important changes that are happening around you. This may help you stand out in your team, more so if you consistently have information that would be beneficial to the task at hand.
From Ideas to Intrapreneurship
If you truly want to maximize the industry-shaping knowledge you gain from networking, you can use it as a way to innovate within your company. It is very possible to exchange ideas without sharing confidential information while networking. Listening to and learning from how others do things can help spark your own creativity. In this way, networking can offer you new ways of approaching your role or task.
Career Development Catapult
It’s no secret that many employers look to social media to find out about your digital footprint. One way to look good to these employers is by being involved and active in an online network of professionals, like LinkedIn or Facebook. Another way that networking can help support your career development, is by giving you access to high-profile individuals that may be in a position to sponsor you when it matters. Sponsorship, unlike mentorship, requires someone of a certain level of power and influence to verbally back up your capabilities. This is key when applying for more leadership roles in your company and can make all the difference between you staying in your current role and receiving a promotion. Networking can also be good grounds for you to build a mentorship relationship with someone, and it also brings your attention to vacant job roles in different departments or companies.
Leverage Long-Term Relationships
Networking will not only give you access to high-profile individuals but a wide variety of skilled people who could help you at any point in your career. The best way to build up such a network is to play the long game and to invest in long-term relationships. As networking is dependent on interactions between two people, it is important to treat it as a growing relationship, and that includes valuing trust, communication, honesty, and intention. If you are attending an event where someone that you respect and would like to be connected with will be in attendance, do your research about them – if possible – before you approach them. Additionally, the same way that you would be intentional about maintaining a personal relationship, is the way it should be with the key relationships in your network. Ensure not to exploit these relationships and always think of what you are bringing to the table.
At the end of the day, networking is a multifaceted avenue that can lead you toward many different opportunities, if you allow it to. Each of the reasons explored in this article is one of the many benefits and ways to leverage networking. Just remember, when you are building your network it’s up to you to initiate and maintain it. After all, the theory is that you’re only six people away from everyone in the world, so start introducing yourself!