What is networking?
Networking isn’t merely the exchange of information with others — and it’s certainly not about begging for favors. Networking is about establishing, building, 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. You don’t have to join several professional associations and attend every networking event that comes your way in order to be a successful networker. In fact, if you take your eyes off your smartphone when you’re out in public, you’ll see that networking opportunities are all around you every day.
The importance of networking for career development
Career development, in its simplest terms, is the lifelong evolution of your career. It’s influenced by a number of things that include the jobs you hold, the experiences you gain in and out of the office, the growth and success you achieve at each stage of your career, the formal and informal education and training you receive, and the feedback you’re provided with along the way.
Ideally, organizations would place more emphasis on employee development in the workplace. However, the reality is that we live in what Carter Cast, author of the book, “The Right (and Wrong) Stuff: How Brilliant Careers Are Made,” refers to as “the era of do-it-yourself career development.”
Cast explains that in today’s workforce, the burden is on you to take control of your career development. Hence the importance of networking for career development: 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.
What Are the Benefits of Business Networking?
Business networking might allow you to create awareness of or keep abreast of the latest trends or technology in your industry. A network can also provide you with professional mentors or contacts who might be able to assist you with problems you might need help with.
For example, if your business needs the services of a bookkeeper, accountant, or lawyer you may find the ideal candidate through your network. If your business needs equity financing you may be able to find an angel investor or venture capitalist through networking channels.
Networking is ideal for expanding your knowledge by taking advantage of the viewpoints and prior experience of others. For instance, if you are thinking of exporting your products or services, you may be able to get some valuable advice from someone else who has done similar business internationally.
10 Most Valuable Networking Skills for Every Professional
The best careers are built around the best networks. Great connections can provide you with learning opportunities, promotional opportunities, jobs, and more. The wrong connections, on the other hand, can drag your career down to their level of mediocrity. This makes it essential to develop strong networking skills so you can build the right network for your career.
Essential networking skills for every professional:
1. A focus on building genuine, long-term friendships
2. Active listening
3. The ability to frame things in a positive way
4. The ability to focus on others’ needs before your own
6. The ability to cope well with feedback and rejection
8. Interviewing skills
9. Email etiquette
10. A solid elevator pitch
Networking can be daunting, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. You can make it much easier by developing the following networking skills:
- A focus on genuine, long-term relationships
- Active listening
- The ability to frame things in a positive way
- The ability to focus on others’ needs before your own
- The ability to cope well with feedback and rejection
- Interviewing skills
- Email etiquette
- A solid elevator pitch
With these networking skills in place, you are sure to build the kind of network that will in turn help you build a great career!