Networking can be intimidating whether you’re new to the workforce or an experienced professional. That said, it is one of the most powerful resources individuals and businesses have at their disposal. Keep reading to learn how effective networking can help grow your career and lead to professional success!
What is Networking & Why Does it Matter?
In a nutshell, networking is the process of meeting and forming contacts with other professionals. While it’s common practice to network with individuals in your industry, networking gives you the freedom to establish business relationships beyond your own career field. Networking offers immense value on an individual and company-wide level because it helps you to:
Build a support network
Gain a new perspective
Experience personal and professional development
Raise your professional profile
Strengthen business connections
Learn about volunteer opportunities
Let’s take a closer look at what networking can do for jobseekers, personal and professional development, and business growth.
Networking for Job Seekers
When it comes to locating potential work or moving up the ladder at your current company, networking is crucial. A report by CNBC revealed that up to 70% of jobs aren’t publicly posted on job search sites, and 80% of available positions are found through personal connections. A LinkedIn survey further supports these numbers, reporting that 85% of all jobs are filled via networking.
Clearly, networking plays a role in how job seekers hear about and secure positions in the job market. In some cases, it may be because someone in their network shared it with them. In other instances, networking has directly introduced them to a potential employer or recruiter within the organization. These personal connections offer an advantage over other candidates competing for the same position — a sentiment reinforced by Apollo Technical, an IT and engineering recruitment agency.
“When hiring, recruiters have the incredibly tough task of picking one person from hundreds of applicants. Choosing somebody they know and have interacted with before is an easier decision than selecting someone they’ve never met or only met through a brief interview.”
Whether you’re actively seeking employment or find yourself unexpectedly looking for work, utilizing your professional network is a smart place to start. Chances are, someone in your social circle will know of an open position and be able to point you in the right direction.
Networking for Career Growth
Aside from looking for work, networking is a great way to grow both personally and professionally. According to TopResume:
“As you network with people at your company, in your industry, and even outside your field of interest, you’ll uncover opportunities to connect with different types of mentors or advisors, increase your visibility with senior management, further develop your areas of expertise, and improve your soft skills.”
A local example of using networking for career development is the new Spartan Alumni Mentorship Program introduced by the Fergus Area College Foundation. The program facilitates a mentee-mentor relationship between current M State students and alumni and professionals in the community.
This is an incredible resource for students as they begin building their professional network. As mentees, they have the opportunity to gain valuable insight from people who have been where they are while developing essential skills. It also exposes them to different career paths available within the community and allows them to forge real connections with business leaders and potential employers.
Mentorship programs benefit mentors and local businesses as well. Mentors not only get to give back by fostering the incoming workforce but have a chance to reflect on their own career paths and aspirations. Introducing students to employers within the community is also a great way to nurture network connections, as it can help them fill open positions and keep the younger generation in the community.
Networking for Business Growth
Businesses of all sizes and scales can benefit from networking, from entrepreneurs and startups to established companies. It is one of the most effective ways not only to build partnerships with other businesses but to find and keep customers. When done well, networking allows you to establish trust and credibility with other businesses, customers, and potential employees.
While building trust in all three areas is crucial for any business, at the moment, there’s none quite as pressing as finding potential employees. With a workforce shortage well underway, employers need to find ways to fill labor gaps; networking presents an excellent way to do that. It puts you in direct contact with job seekers and makes it easy to promote opportunities within your company.
Aside from having company representatives attend networking events, businesses should consider participating in local programs such as Greater Fergus Falls’ Virtual Career Fair. The career fair, which is a partnership with ISD 544 and Otter Tail County, is part of our strategic framework to expose the emerging workforce and community to the diverse opportunities available within the region. The virtual nature of the career fair makes it easy for businesses to incorporate facility tours, employee testimonials, and showcase the things that set them apart in the labor market.
Start Building Your Network
The thought of networking may feel overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. Mainly because you get to decide how much or how little networking you want to do. Whether you choose to start small or go all in, you can start building your network utilizing:
Word of mouth referrals and introductions
Professional networking groups and events
College alumni organizations
Your current workplace
LinkedIn and other professionally-oriented social media platforms
Social events and fundraisers
Conferences and expos
As you start making connections, it’s important to remember that networking isn’t simply about meeting people or asking for favors; it’s about building long-lasting, mutually beneficial relationships. To do that, you have to be willing to nurture your network connections. Sharing an interesting article related to their field, asking their opinion on a problem, or sending a quick note of congratulations on a recent accomplishment all go a long way in developing your network.