[This article was updated in May 2022 in order to keep it remaining relevant and accurate for our readers, as well as reflect our reputation for quality.]
Networking is the process that facilitates an exchange of information and ideas across individuals that share a common interest. So networking throughout your career will provide you with opportunities to share ideas directly with individuals and professionals within your industry and enable you to develop your personal brand, in turn providing endless benefits for your career.
The Benefits of Networking
1. Building new contacts and referrals
Networking offers you the opportunity to meet with potential clients or an employer; building this “network” often comes in handy throughout your career. It can help you to identify opportunities for future partnerships or present new areas of expansion within your career that you may previously not have considered. Sometimes there may not be an instant reward, but constantly creating new contacts and building a networking pool will be useful at a later date.
2. Staying up to date on current events
Networking with those within your industry allows you to stay up to date on any current news or trends. While this can be done by reading the latest news, your network may expose you to information prior to its release in the mainstream media or provide a more targeted industry related stream. This is constantly beneficially throughout your career as it enables you to always be up to date on industry developments from those with inside knowledge. You never know when this knowledge could give you a step ahead in your career or even help you with a conversation during future networking events.
Your network allows you to receive advice from a range of sources that can then be used when you have any questions or queries that you may not be equipped to answer. Essentially, ‘two minds are better than one’ and networking enables you to utilise your network to answer any questions that may come your way, and you may find that someone in your network can turn into a mentor throughout your career.
4. Raising your profile
Networking provides increased viability. It is often difficult to stand out as an individual or outshine the competition. However, through networking, you become more visible as you have connections and contacts with specific people within the industry. These contacts can refer you or enhance your profile.
5. Increasing your confidence
Networking gives you the opportunity to speak to a variety of different individuals in a mix of settings. As a result, you become more confident in meeting and interacting with new people. Also, through your increased knowledge of key individuals in your industry and the latest trends, you become more confident about exchanging ideas and opinions at work.
Simple things to grow your professional network
1. Use social media
Social media can often be used as a networking tool; in particular, LinkedIn has been a source for connecting with businesses and individuals within your industry. LinkedIn provides you with the opportunity to join groups and engage in industry-related discussions. Again getting your name out there could bring opportunities your way later on in your career.
2. Attend networking events in your area
There are various websites that enable you to attend networking events in your area specifically related to your industry. Some can be found below:
3. Log your contact
Don’t just exchange business cards or introduce yourself with little or no follow up. Schedule some time in your diary the next day after a networking event to follow up. Use this time to add people to your email address book or connect with them on LinkedIn.
4. Do not only connect, stay in touch
It is easy to just connect with people on LinkedIn with little or no further communication. There are no automatic benefits from networking; the amount of time you invest in building your network determines how much you can get out. If you only connect with people and do not interact with them, it is difficult to be memorable or benefit from networking.
5. Connect with people at a human level
It is easy to feel the need to always be professional to the point of becoming too robotic. Try connecting with people on a more personal level rather than just at a business level, and you may then find it easier to connect and find common ground beyond work.