When it comes to professional success, my dad and my uncle have ceaselessly instilled the phrase “It is all about who you know” into my head. Many individuals have found success in their careers due to the strong networking channels they have created. It is not a matter of how big your network is but who you network with and their relevance to your career interests.
Networking is the act of maintaining a personal and professional contact list that you can reference when needed to help further your career. To create and maintain a beneficial network, you must intentionally seek out opportunities to grow and expand your network. Your network can consist of coworkers, family, friends, professors or fellow students, professionals in your field and even clients or customers.
Here are some reasons why networking is essential for building your professional aspirations.
An avenue to exchange ideas
Listening to ideas and information from experienced colleagues or professionals can provide you wisdom and guidance while navigating your own career. When networks are created, it fosters a trade of ideas to sustain long-term relationships and mutual trust.
If you dedicate time and effort to getting to know your colleagues, they have the potential to help you advance in your current career or aid in the transition to a new one. Connections like these can lead to referrals, job leads, mentoring and practical training.
It makes you noticeable
People quickly notice others who have a strong capability to make themselves relevant. When you stand out in both your expertise and the services you offer, you have an advantage to be acknowledged by people who have the power to help you get to where you want to be.
The opportunities and success garnered from taking advantage of networks builds self-confidence and alleviates stress. This confidence can help you as you interact with professional contacts and in interview sessions for job opportunities.
Now you may be wondering, where do I begin? There are several steps you can take to network effectively.
Look for the right people
Reach out to the people who can offer you the help and connections you need. It is important to reach out to people who are good candidates for cultivating a mutually beneficial relationship. Not only can you benefit from their knowledge, but you can contribute to their success as well.
LinkedIn is a very good tool for making connections and finding successful professionals in your desired field of work. I can attest to the power of using LinkedIn because I had an employer reach out to me after coming across one of my posts, and within a week of interacting and setting up a Zoom call, I had an internship set up for the spring!
Do not be afraid to reach out to professionals through LinkedIn’s messaging platform. Keep your messages short but to the point. Make a personal connection in the opening to give the individual an idea of who you are and your relevance to them. Then go into asking for professional advice or opportunities they may have for you. You can even ask if they would be willing to set up a time to speak to gain insights into their career and industry. It is not as scary as it seems in a virtual setting, and the worst that can happen is you do not receive a response. You will be surprised at how many people are willing to help in any way they can, so give it a shot!
Cultivate your network year-round to ensure beneficial connections are maintained. Even sending a short email to say hello can make all the difference to ensure they are willing to help when you need them. This may look like asking the individual how work has been for them lately and if they have any new insights to share that would be beneficial to you. This shows that you care and will keep you fresh on their minds to recommend you for opportunities that may arise.
Seek out networking events
Socializing in person is your best chance of securing a strong network. As a student, attending university career fairs and employer days are perfect opportunities to build connections. In the world of COVID-19 we live in, many of these networking events have transitioned to virtual settings, but they are no less beneficial. Begin going as early as freshman year and you will surely walk away with connections you can cultivate for internship opportunities throughout your college career.
It is important to note that networking is not limited to professional careers but internship and mentorship opportunities as well! Even if you speak with employers who are looking to hire full-time employees, mentioning that you are interested in seeking internship opportunities is valuable. It can spark conversation surrounding your professional interests and goals, and the employer can potentially lead you in different directions for other opportunities that may be of interest to you. Not only that, but it can foster a relationship between you and the employer and if you stay connected with them, they may consider hiring you down the road.
Although networking may not help you land your dream job, there is potential for learning and gaining wisdom nonetheless, and that is reason enough to value this tactic and incorporate it into your professional tool box.
Written by: Delaney Niemeyer