If you’re a professional, or on your way to becoming one, you’ve probably heard a million times how important networking is. In fact, we hear about networking so often that we may not really be taking the time to understand what networking is, and why it’s so important. Worst of all, for many of us, networking can be intimidating and well—let’s face it—hard. That’s why we at Palette Skills invite you to take a step back and join us as we take a look at what networking is, and why you can learn to love it and start doing it well. Because when it comes to building your career, there’s probably nothing more critical than building a great network.
What is networking anyways?
Let’s start by taking a look at the word itself. A net is a pattern of fabric or twine that is woven together. Nets are used to catch fish, butterflies, and even hockey pucks. The key here is that the threads of a net are basically all connected. So early on, people started using ‘network’ to talk about other things that were connected together, like roads. After that, we all started using the word as a verb to talk about making connections with other people, especially in business and professional life.
But what is networking? More than anything else, it is the conscious practice of making connections with people in your industry or in related fields to exchange information, ideas, and opportunities. It’s a deliberate, strategic activity where we come together with others to build meaningful and mutually beneficial relationships that can open doors and create opportunities for both personal and professional growth.
Why should we network?
When it comes to business and careers, we often think that success depends mostly on things like talent, qualifications, or ambition. While these are all part of what it takes to build a great career, we also know that the people and communities we are connected to play a crucial role in career success. From landing a job that’s only available through the hidden job market to attaining career success, the research is clear: networking matters.
In fact, there is plenty of science showing the value and benefit of networking, not only for career success, but also for important and intangible things like our own personal sense of wellbeing. So let’s take a few moments to look at some other benefits of networking that may surprise you. After that, we’ll learn about effective ways you can begin to network to build your own career success.
The power of connections
As we’ve seen, networking opens doors to opportunities that may not be easily available through traditional job searches or education. In reality, many job openings, partnerships, and collaborations are never advertised. Instead, they are shared through personal connections and word-of-mouth referrals. Obviously, the more people you have in your network, the better your chances are of learning about these kinds of opportunities, as well as many others.
But great networking has other benefits that can be more important than a job opportunity. When it comes to learning and growth, interacting with diverse people and professionals exposes you to new perspectives, ideas, and industry insights. All of these can help you stay updated with business trends, and deepen your understanding of your field. Think of it as part of your commitment to lifelong learning, which is a critical mindset and skill for the emerging job market here in Canada, and around the world.
Secrets of a great network
There’s another value to networking that doesn’t get talked about enough. When you build your network, you’re also building a community of people you can turn to for mentoring and support. A strong professional network is a resource you can turn to when you are considering a career transition, facing a professional challenge, or trying to balance work and family. In fact, it’s hard to overstate how important mentorship can be to your career development. And it goes both ways; over time, people in your network will turn to you for advice and encouragement. And when you step up, you are not only helping others, you are also building your own leadership skills.
Remember that in a competitive job market, a strong network helps you establish and promote your personal brand. Why is that important? As it turns out, your reputation is not just about your skills. It’s also built on the trust and relationships you’ve cultivated. And that reputation can be the key to surviving in uncertain economic times. If you’re facing a job loss due to downsizing, your network is a safety net. It’s something you can turn to quickly, and will help you identify new opportunities.
How to love networking
By now, we have probably convinced you that networking is critical for your career success. But what about learning to love it? There are two barriers that sometimes get in our way when it comes to loving networking. The first is that often we think of networking as somehow sneaky or even unethical. Look at the words we used earlier when we talked about networking as a deliberate and strategic activity. Does this mean that networking is unethical? In a word, no.
As a matter of fact, great networks are built on trust and mutual benefit. This means that when you network, you are not just trying to get ahead; you are trying to build relationships that are meaningful for everyone, and that deliver positive outcomes equally. More than that, great networking is more about giving than it is about receiving. In the section below, we will learn about the ins and outs of different networking skills, and show why authenticity matters.
Networking effectively and authentically
The most important thing about networking is authenticity. It’s important to be yourself, which helps build trust and meaningful connections. Engage in conversations that genuinely interest you, and remember that building connections is about mutual benefit.
Aim for quality over quantity. Remember that it’s not about how many contacts you have, but the quality of those relationships. Focus on building deeper connections with a few individuals who align with your goals and values.
Make sure you attend industry events, and don’t set your networking goals too high. Conferences, seminars, workshops, and industry-specific events are great opportunities to meet like-minded professionals, and to learn about what’s going on in your field. The most important thing is to have fun, learn, and connect.
Learn how to use online platforms effectively and respectfully. Keep your online profile updated, connect with professionals in your field, and actively participate in industry groups and discussions.
Remember that networking is not just about taking; it’s also about giving. Offer help, advice, or referrals when you can. Being a resource for others can strengthen your professional reputation, and you’ll feel terrific knowing you have helped others.
Upskill your networking
There’s another way that you can start loving networking, and that’s by signing up for a career bootcamp like SalesCamp from Palette Skills. SalesCamp is a 6-week hands-on, live and online career transition and upskilling program designed to give you the practical skills you need to succeed in a B2B tech sales role. And the best part? The program not only focuses on learning about the world of tech sales, it also helps you hone your professional skills with great networking events and 1:1 career coaching designed to connect you quickly with businesses that are potentially ready to hire. So don’t wait. Sign up for SalesCamp now and network your way to a new career!
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