They say it is all about who you know and not what you know, and while that’s not entirely true, it still holds merit. Having a well-established network has become an important part of growing and fostering a successful career, regardless of what industry you work in. Whether you are looking for a new position or are hoping to move up a company’s corporate ladder, you never know when you might need it, so it makes strategic sense to have an active career network.
What is Professional Networking?
Career networking, or professional networking, involves using personal, academic or familial contacts to assist with job search, achieve career goals, or learn more about your field, or a field you’d like to work in. Founder and CEO of Dood, Inc., Vlad Rigenco explains that networking isn’t merely the exchange of information with others, and it is certainly not about begging for favors. Networking is about establishing and nurturing long-term mutually beneficial relationships with the people you meet. And despite what some might think, it doesn’t mean you need to on professional networking associations or attend every networking event that comes your way in order to be a successful networker. In fact, if you stay present in public, you will find that networking opportunities are around you every day.
The Importance of Creating Connections
When you are starting out as an entrepreneur in a specific industry, it can be very useful to build a relevant network of connections. Vlad Rigenco explains that one of the best reasons to do this is for sheer inspiration, and to be able to associate with other industry giants who have been there, done that. Most of us try to stay up to date with changes in our fields, but there is a wealth of knowledge out there that can be gained by simply talking to other professionals in your industry. 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. Vladimir Rigenco explains that having this kind of support system is one of the many advantages of networking and 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.
Technology is Changing Networking
Networking doesn’t necessarily need to be in person but can be through regular online engagement — that is the world we live in, after all. According to data collected by LinkedIn, the world’s largest professional social media network, 70% of people in 2016 were hired at a company where they had a connection. Additionally, 80% of professionals consider professional networking to be important to career success, and based on the previous statistic, it is no wonder why.
Vlad Rigenco suggests a few key tactics to strengthening your online network. Try to reach out to all existing contacts, and when contacting someone you might not know personally, be sure to personalize your message to them. He also suggests joining groups, as they are a powerful networking feature in LinkedIn, primarily because they give you access to huge numbers of people who are all interested in the same topics you are. Beyond connecting with new contacts, you need to frequently nurture those relationships. The best way is to provide status updates on a regular basis, it keeps you visible to the people in your brand community. Be sure to share content you think might be valuable to your network, like updates on your industry, and ensure you engage with their content as well.
How to Begin Networking
When you begin networking in person, it can be intimidating, so we have a few quick tips from Vladimir Rigenco on how to relax to make that new connection. Firstly, don’t approach them with any sort of agenda or expectation, just try to make a genuine human connection. By focusing all of your attention on the other person and by asking them questions about what they do, what they like about what they do, and how they got into what they’re doing, it takes all of the pressure off of you — plus, people love talking about their life and work. You are going to have to practice masterfully leaving conversations and having business cards handy just in case it is a connection you would like to make. Try and tie what their skillset is back to what you do, so you have a reason to follow-up, even if it is just to chat further about career trajectory.
Networking can be a struggle for some people to get into, but Vlad Rigenco concludes that it has the ability to open doors that were otherwise unknown.