The Importance of Networking for Career Advancement
It’s no secret that building a strong network is one of the best things you can do when you’re interested in career advancement. From gaining unique insights to establishing long-term contacts and exploring new pathways, effective networking offers a competitive advantage that can’t be overstated.
Get the Word Out
It probably won’t surprise you to know that your chances of landing a job increase tremendously with the right referral. One of the most important aspects of networking is getting the word out about you. This is what most people think of when they think of networking, building a vast network of professional connections. It’s why networking is called networking. And, although there’s a lot more to networking than just getting the word out, building your library of contacts is still one of the greatest strengths of networking.
LinkedIn is an incredibly popular tool for starting to build your network, researching connections, and establishing a professional personal profile. That said, LinkedIn is just a medium through which you can build and strengthen your network. It isn’t magic. It isn’t automatic. Networking through this website, as with networking through events, academia, or other mediums will require proactive and consistent effort. Getting the word out about you means building your list of contacts. Anyone that you have worked with, gone to school with, or known socially is a potential contact, as are, naturally, anyone you currently work with, go to school with, or, likewise, are currently socially acquainted with. But your connections should stop there. It’s also worth researching people who you may like to know in the future. Anyone you may want to work with, or anyone who works in a field you are interested in, represents a potential connection that you may want to look into fostering.
Stay on the Radar
One of the key strengths of networking, especially in terms of career advancement, is keeping you on everyone’s radar. Networking in this regard is essentially brand marketing, but the brand is you! When a new opportunity arises, you want to be the first person everyone thinks of for that position. The problem that many people run into, however, is that they are really good at one part of networking, but haven’t yet realized that networking goes beyond just expanding your network. It’s about constantly reminding your network who you are, what you’re all about, and what you excel at. When a business has a need that you are capable of addressing, you want to be the first person they think of, but that won’t just happen simply because you have put yourself out there and made a number of connections. In other words, many people make the mistake of getting on the radar without putting in the work to stay on the radar. So while staying on the radar is a vitally important aspect of networking, especially when it comes to advancing your career, it only applies to networking done right. Staying on the radar naturally means keeping your name and your brand fresh in the minds of your connections, but it also means adding value to your connections.
Another mistake that too many people tend to make is that they fail to imagine why other people are networking with them. You know why you’re out there trying to get the word out and stay on the radar, but why is everyone that you’re networking with interested in networking with you? The truth? They’re doing so for the exact same reasons. They’re marketing themselves and they’re seeking value from their connections. From you! The only way that networking can truly thrive is when people use it to form mutually beneficial connections. It simply doesn’t work, not in the long run, for you to reap the benefits of your network while offering little to nothing in return. Likewise, staying on the radar isn’t going to be useful if you don’t do so by adding value to your connections. This doesn’t mean that you have to set everyone who recommends you for a job up with a new job opportunity of their own, but it does mean that you have to bring value to your connections in order to truly gain value from them. Again, this doesn’t mean reciprocating everything 1:1, it just means that you have to bring something to the table. Whether it’s a blog, or a carefully curated selection of posts that you share, or simply offering your own insights on posts that other people make, you need to be doing something to ensure that you are adding value to your connections. It’s not just about being present in the conversation, it’s about adding to it.
Think about it like this: say a hiring manager comes up to you and asks you if you know anyone who might be suited for the new opening at your company. Do you recommend any old person who happened to have added you on LinkedIn at some point in the past, or do you suggest to the hiring manager the person who you’ve seen speaking online about this topic, demonstrating their interest in the field, the person who may have, perhaps, even brought something to your attention that you had never heard of before or taught you something new that you’ve utilized since? Obviously, you would go with the latter candidate. This doesn’t mean that the latter candidate is necessarily more qualified, or that the former one wouldn’t be capable of teaching you something new or bringing value to your company. But the fact remains that the latter candidate, the one who has already demonstrated that they can bring value to your connection with them, is going to be who you think of first. That’s the value of networking.
Networking isn’t just about stacking your deck with influential contacts to help you get your foot in a number of proverbial doors or to help ensure that you are the first option that springs to mind when a new opportunity opens up, it’s also a great tool for broadening your horizons. Building a robust network means you have access to a font of new perspectives, ideas, and advice that can help you navigate your career. While it’s certainly easy to fall into the trap of thinking that career advancement is all about a straight line directly up like a ladder, doing so can blind you to a well of new opportunities. It’s always great to keep your feelers out and continue to learn. A lot of people, even those who think they have a pretty good idea about what their career path will look like, will end up with surprises along the way. Often, finding the career you love can require a big career change (or two). But the only way to know is to keep your ear to the ground, explore new opportunities, and tap your network for their unique insights. The same applies to career advice. Your network isn’t just there to give you a recommendation when you need it. Many of them could also be great mentors or sources of information. Whether you want to know about a given career or find out more about a specific company, learning from your network can often be just as valuable as any of the other important benefits.
Long Story Short
Getting the word out about you, staying on the radar, adding value to your connections, and gaining unique insight are all incredibly beneficial for anyone looking to advance their career, but, as we’ve seen, this all depends on networking done right. It’s not, for example, about reaping value from your network, it’s about establishing mutually beneficial relationships. It’s not, likewise, merely about building a litany of connections, it’s about keeping up with those connections. In other words: if you’re looking to advance your career, networking is an incredibly powerful tool for accomplishing that, but that requires dedicating yourself to networking effectively!