Most of us recognise that networking is beneficial to our careers. Yet, even though we primarily rely on it when looking for a job, connecting with other professionals can help with every aspect of your career development. Instead of just reaching out to other professionals in times of crisis, invest in these relationships throughout the course of your career.
1. It allows you to help others
One of the most important benefits of networking that people tend to overlook is that it allows you to help other people. Granted, our motives in the professional world are rarely altruistic, but helping someone else with their career goals can be truly rewarding. Think of helping someone get their first job, for example, or putting in a good word to help someone get the promotion they’ve been after for the past two years.
What’s more, helping out a professional connection means that they’ll owe you one, which means that by making introductions and helping other people connect, you are essentially paving the path for your own professional success.
2. Exchange fresh ideas
Most of us try to stay up to date with changes in our fields either through continuing our education or via reading up on industry news, but there’s a wealth of knowledge out there which you can gain access to by simply talking to other professionals in your industry.
Being on the receiving end of these fresh ideas allows you to introduce new practices in your workplace and impress your boss, but, more importantly, it helps you remain on top of trends and developments in your industry. This is not just healthy for your employment status, but is also a great first step in your professional growth.
3. Makes you more visible
What many professionals fail to understand is that the fight to stand out from the crowd does not end once you get the job; in fact, making yourself more visible in the workplace is not only more difficult, but it also requires a lot more finesse, too.
One of the advantages of networking is that it helps you become more visible to the right people. Through your contacts, you can gradually become that one person that "knows everyone", and is asked to make introductions or provide insight on clients, associates and even competitors.
4. Opens doors to new opportunities
Precisely because networking makes you more visible, it also opens new doors. From getting approached by recruiters about job opportunities, to getting noticed by people who would like to work with you on a freelance basis, you never know when an opportunity that can advance your career will present itself.
It’s important to understand that opportunities not only present themselves in the form of new jobs, but they can also mean meeting an important person in the industry that can change the course of your career, such as being given the chance to start your own business.
5. Allows you to express opinions
Unlike your friends and family, a professional network is there to share opinions about your industry and exchange information. You can discuss industry-related matters that you have been thinking about, as well as ask for advice whenever you reach an impasse.
Having this kind of support system is one of the many advantages of networking and it’s why people are encouraged to take an active role in building their network. Not only can you share thoughts about new trends with other professionals, but you can also bounce ideas about client projects while getting some constructive feedback.
6. Expands your support network
Another benefit of networking is that it helps you build a support network that is designed to assist you at every stage of your career. For example, let’s say that you are interviewing for a particular job or company; in an open network there will always be someone who has gone through the same process in the recent past, which means that they can give you the necessary advice and tips on how to conduct yourself and what to expect.
The is true when you are trying to approach a new client, too. An open network can mean getting tips on how that client likes to operate and how best to approach them.
7. Gets you promoted
According to many studies, having an open network is a predictor of success, increasing the likelihood of promotions and salary bumps. Connecting with other professionals gives you insight and makes you more effective, after all, which are attributes that any boss values and looks to reward.
The key is to use your contacts wisely and to be smart about how you carry yourself in the workplace. If you’ve been contacted by a recruiter about a new position, then consider using that offer to leverage your current position. The chances are that your boss will learn to appreciate you more once they know that you are in demand.
8. Boosts your self-esteem
It may not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about networking benefits, but the boost to your self-esteem is something to consider. Knowing people, being asked about your opinions and ideas and getting asked to introduce people can be quite the social thrill, and it’s exactly what you need - especially if you are an introvert who’s looking to advance themselves in a cut-throat business environment.
There are many methods and techniques to get over your initial shyness and actually start talking to people, but the important thing to remember is that it can be done on your own terms. Networking is not like entering a high-school cafeteria; it’s a lot more grown-up and it’s something anyone can master if they set their mind to it.
9. It becomes your resource
You probably have tonnes of questions about your industry that not even Google can help you with. Talking to other professionals (and this includes colleagues) can help you resolve a lot of these queries.
Your professional network essentially functions as your resource, because, as the old adage goes, two minds are better than one. Having these connections means that you can tap into their knowledge whenever you need to - and vice versa.
10. Influence things positively
Sometimes all our careers need is an influencer who can help things go our way, which is exactly what a professional network does a lot of the time. It puts in a good word and applies pressure whenever it’s necessary; it’s an aid in helping you achieve your goals. This is precisely why taking active steps towards building and maintaining a network can be so beneficial in the long run.
A professional network can help your career in many ways, whether it's getting a job, securing a promotion or leveraging a raise. However, to achieve all of that you need to step outside your comfort zone and start connecting with other people in your field.
Remember, too, that you can’t just build the relationships; you need to maintain them by consistently and regularly following up with your connections, whether it's chit-chat and business cards at the annual conference, or mojitos and beer at the weekly happy hour.
What is your chosen method of networking? Let us know in the comment section below.