Why Networking is Important to Your Success
What is networking?
Often networking gets a bad reputation because it can be perceived as transactional, trading business cards or favors.
This could not be more further from the truth. Networking is about building and strengthening relationships, but they have to be genuine, and they have to matter for them to work.
It means the relationship should be intertwined with online and off-line interactions and aimed at providing value. It should be a win-win game for each party as you are both trying to give value to each other by sharing resources, knowledge or expertise the other might find useful.
The way you do this is not by sending irrelevant e-mails or being a little too casual about contacting someone. That's great and works for people who are already your friend and know you, but it could be time-wasting and misunderstood by people you don't yet know. To build a network, you have to be a little more strategic and an excellent listener (or reader, in case of online interactions). You have to learn to figure out what your counterpart might need by both asking the right questions and consuming the content they put out.
Why is networking so important?
Networking can open you many doors, from finding a prospective mentor, kick-start a new opportunity or even find investors if you are looking to walk the startup-life path. If you operate in the marketing or sales sector, being a good networker could also manage to get you new partners or clients.
A network (and mentors as well) can help us look at us and our path up to this point from a different perspective, and they might even make us notice opportunities we did not consider because of insecurities or hesitations.
Moreover, being connected will give us access to new insights both within the industry you work in but also into sectors you are not so familiar about. It could eventually lead you to make uncommon connections that could make you develop and improve your skill set.
Career success often goes hand in hand with networking. It is because to build a status for yourself; you have to either be noticed by others or be able to interact with them to prove and showcase your abilities.
To develop your career status, planning regular daily activities to connect with your network should be your focus. Everything you do will leave your brand stamp. It will bleed through the online world to your workplace. So, having a correctly implemented email signature can help you network. If you have your LinkedIn profile included in the signature, it means people you interact with can reach you there as well. Your profile pictures on all your social media should also communicate the same intentions for which you want to be recognized. If you wish to appear as a serious professional, maybe, you should change the picture of you at the water-park and change it for something a little more put together.
Setting up strong networking channels
Both in and out of the workspace, there are several ways in which we can build strong networking channels.
A few simple ones could be hosting dinners or drinks on a semi-regular basis; this allows people to come together, meet and get to know each other. But another very effective way to connect (without having to cook) is by intentionally blocking time into your calendar to 'click' with someone every week. You can decide how to meet if either in person to grab a coffee or lunch, or to set up a video call through Zoom. You could also make it a regular event so that you don't lose touch.
To be intentional and not to have to rely on your memory which, especially in stressful times, it can be faulty, I suggest building a system. It can be as simple as writing a post-it after having met someone, noting their interests, the issues they are having but also details such as allergies and birthdays.
Many Universities have alumni networks you can leverage and take advantage of the events they organize and attend; in this way, you can meet new people or rediscover old connections.
What if I am an Introvert?
Welcome to the club! I am one as well! But it would be biased to assume networking is for extroverts only. Being an introvert means you will perform better in smaller settings, which means you can still set up one on one calls or coffee meetings.
Please take advantage of your listening abilities. As an introvert, you incline to let the other person talk more, which will allow you to identify the pain point they are having, as well as building more profound connections.
Make networking a priority and set time aside in your week to catch up with friends you haven’t heard in a while.
Organize a semi-regular meeting (either in person or virtual) and have everyone invite someone you don’t know.
In order to maintain relationships you have to remember what people share about them, write a note so that next time you hear something that could be useful to someone in your network, you can get back to them.