In the business world, people always talk about networking, networking, and networking. So, why do people keep talking about this concept of networking? What is networking? Why are the benefits? I am here to answer those questions for you.
I first became familiar with the term networking (outside of computer networks) when I began looking for internships in college. One of the main messages that our career center emphasized was to network as much as possible. We didn’t have a lot of companies recruiting at our college, therefore it was up to us to network with alumni and potential employers. I would write dozens of emails to alumni to see if they were interested in chatting over the phone. I would write hundreds of emails to potential employers to see if they were looking for interns. I’ve even seen brand name employers start a resume drop box at my school just because a student reached out to an alumnus who was high up and well-regarded. After I graduated, I would attend various networking events to meet other professionals. Although not every event proved fruitful, it was good to get in the habit of talking to more people and learning about more industries. I network and talk to other people in my company as well. After all, you never know where a contact can lead you.
What is Networking?
I’m sure there are many definitions for networking and everyone has her own. To me, networking is creating personal and business relationships to further your career, develop and grow your business, and provide help to others. Think of your network as a resource you can depend on and give to.
What are the Benefits?
Having a strong network is both beneficial business-wise and emotionally fulfilling. The right people in your network can help you find a job if you are looking for one. Depending on how close you are to your contact, you may be able to give him a call to see how things are going and if there are any opportunities for jobs, business development, sales, etc. For a salesperson, a strong network can have an extremely high ROI and provide direct sales and referrals.
A strong network is emotionally fulfilling as well. Serving as a mentor to others, regardless of industry, profession, or experience, can really make a difference in someone’s life.
How Do You Do It?
People network through a variety of avenues. There are industry-specific professional conferences where people meet to network. There are regional networking events to connect professionals of all industries and functions. There are networking groups for young professionals where the activities include happy hour and kickball. You can check your local Chamber of Commerce or use Google to find networking associations and professional groups.
Networks are also created online. Through websites such as LinkedIn, you can find other professionals in your company, industry, or function. I recommend adding people who you have met in real life to your LinkedIn network. You can also find recruiters from companies on LinkedIn who you can reach out to.
There are also networking avenues that people may not see as networking avenues. If you play a club sport, take a class, or go to a community center, there may be people there with similar professional interests. You may develop these relationships organically and then later find out that you two share some professional interests. Since that relationship is already there, it makes it easy to ask for career advice and opportunities.
Words of Advice
When networking, make sure that you are always respectful, polite, considerate, courteous, and genuine. You are your own personal brand, so make sure you do not ruin that brand. Don’t do anything that you don’t want done to you.
Focus on nurturing and growing the relationships you develop. Stay connected to your contacts and send them occasional messages. You never know what might happen down the line.
Remember that not everyone may be as giving. People have their own problems and issues to deal with. If someone is unwilling to help, just move on. As long as you were genuine and respectful, you tried your best at networking while maintaining your personal brand and integrity.
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