Updated: Jun 26
When people think about the process of networking, some get excited while others fill with dread. The excitement (or not) about networking likely reflects your comfort of interacting with strangers. Those who love mixing with crowds generally fit in, while those who don’t would rather get a tooth pulled. However you feel about networking, it’s an important activity because it can have an impact on your career. Here are three ways it helps you.
Gives you practice. Your ability to sell yourself lessens if you settle into a career and only talk to people you have to. Getting out there an interacting with other professionals keeps you used to talking about what you bring to the table professionally. One way to do this is always having an elevator pitch ready to go. Even if you like your job, you don’t know when you’ll find yourself presented an opportunity for one that’s even better, so having a five-minute presentation ready about your skills can only help you in the long run.
Opens up unknown opportunities. When you’re networking with others, either at an event or one-on-one, talking to others outside your current company opens you up to new opportunities. When you meet new people and start talking, they may even tell you about a career you didn’t know existed. For example, you may love negotiating and connecting people and at some point encounter someone who works for a university. During your conversation, this contact tells you their university is hiring for a position that supports students who have issues with their professors. After hearing about this job, it sounds right up your alley. Learning about jobs that are specific to different fields are sometimes only found out when having a conversation with someone working in that area.
Sets you up for the future. One mistake people make when thinking about networking is only considering this activity when looking for a job. Actively communicating with other professionals is important to do even when you’re satisfied with your current position. According to Champlain College Online, “Building your career network slowly and sustainably over time will help you have the resources you need in place when and if a time comes that you do want to make a job or career change.” You can compare it to asking for a favor from someone you have no relationship with. The people you turn to when you really need something are generally those who are already in your sphere.
The importance of networking is clear—what’s left is finding the time and motivation to keep up these types of relationships. You could start small and focus your networking through online options like LinkedIn and Facebook. Offer to buy someone a coffee to discuss what’s going on in their industry. People love to talk about their lives, so if you make minimal efforts like this, you’ll have a good network of people to call upon if you find yourself without a job one day or ready to make a career change.