The benefits of networking
Networking doesn’t come naturally to everybody however it is possible to learn the skill and make it work to your advantage.
What is the purpose of networking?
Essentially, networking is the sharing of information and ideas amongst people with a common interest (usually over a period of time). This can be applied to people going to a gym and exchanging fitness tips as much as it can be to those in the workplace.
The common theme is ‘meeting people’, ‘talking to people’ and ‘expanding your knowledge’. All of these are important when job searching, but there is a fourth segment that is really important when trying to progress your career to the next level, and that is ‘being seen’.
It can take time to network, but look on this as time invested in your career. The recent rise in availability of Zoom meetings also means that it is easier than ever before to attend webinars or social get-togethers online. Attending in this remote way can make it a little simpler to join events for those people who find social situations difficult, or who struggle to travel due to their geographical location.
Why should I network?
One of the biggest advantages of networking is for your career development. Linking up with others, hearing up-to-date information relating to your job sector, and listening to the experiences of respected people within your industry are great ways for you to get a better understanding of what is possible for you to achieve.
Listening to others you respect can give you a fresh perspective on ways of working – it may open you up to considering self-employment, working abroad, studying in order to enter a new sector, or even deciding on your goals. Seeing and hearing how other people have had successes (and failures) can be inspirational. Being connected also gives you the opportunity to ask questions, which in turn raises your own profile to others and demonstrates your interest.
In addition, networking is a great way to hear about jobs that are coming up (and which may not be advertised), as well as to let other people know that you are looking to take that next step in your career. Remember that 70% of jobs are not advertised and are discovered through word of mouth so it is helpful to build your circle of business contacts.
How do I network?
- Being a member of an industry organisation is a great way to connect with other people in your sector. You can do this through attending regular meetings (in person or via Zoom) and signing up for CPD training sessions or conferences.
- Follow your member organisation and its key office holders on social media (ie Twitter, LinkedIn). This will open you up to being able to follow other influential people in your industry and will ensure you are kept up-to-date with sector news.
- You can network at work too. Getting to know people in different departments can help you to gain a better understanding of the business as a whole. This can benefit you when going for promotion – if you are known to different department heads for ‘good’ reasons then you will be a familiar name and face to them if you apply for an internal opportunity.
- When attending events, always take business cards with you to hand to people you chat with. Try to plan conversations ahead – think about the topic of the event, what questions do you have, what is relevant to where you want to progress towards? Always ask about other people’s jobs, what they do and how they got there. Learn from others’ journeys. It's also a good idea to have an 'elevator pitch' ready so when people ask 'what do you do' or 'what brings you to this event' you can confidently respond.
Who should I network with?
- Established and respected people within your industry (this can include MDs and CEOs – anyone who has climbed their way up to where you would like to be).
- People and businesses you admire.
- Anyone who challenges your thinking.
- People/organisations that have up-to-date information on your sector.
- People you work with, or have studied with, and who understand your role and your ambition.
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