Why Professional Networking Is Essential for Your Career
Written by Andrew Thornton, AMI Chair
Let’s start by being clear about what we mean by the term ‘professional networking’.
Professional networking generally refers to building meaningful connections with other industry professionals. Although networking has many benefits, most people engage in networking to enhance or advance their career opportunities.
There are, essentially, 3 forms of professional networking:
Firstly, ‘operational networking’ involves developing intra-organisational relationships or, in other words, building stronger connections with your colleagues and internal leaders and influencers.
Secondly, ‘personal networking’ defines what most people mean when they use the term ‘networking’. That is, meeting other industry professionals that work in different organisations with the goal of engaging with others who may be influential in your career.
And, thirdly, ‘strategic networking’ which essentially combines the two above-mentioned types of professional networking. In essence, targeting who you want to network with and, more importantly, why. This is the approach that most skilled networkers undertake.
Here are some of the key benefits of effective professional networking:
1. Expand your network
The ability to expand your network and connect with people that you would not normally come into contact with in the course of your day-to-day work.
2. Build a strong support network
One of the key benefits of networking is that it enables you to build a strong support network. There will inevitably be times throughout your career when you will need the help and support of others. The ability to draw on someone within your support network to help you can be an invaluable asset.
3. Build your sphere of influence
Networking can help you build connections with influential industry experts and leaders that you wouldn’t otherwise have a chance to meet. You can also build your understanding of what is happening in your profession, and your industry, and you can get to know more about your competitors or emerging opportunities.
4. Open doors for new opportunities
One of the reasons why networking is important is because it helps build your reputation. Regularly attending networking events helps you become more widely known and, if your interactions are managed well, you can build your reputation. Practice active listening and share advice and insights with others. This helps position you as someone who is skilled and experienced which can, in turn, lead to new career opportunities. According to Hubspot, networking is responsible for filling 85% of job vacancies.
5. Business prospecting
And if you are self-employed or running a consulting practice or agency, networking can positively impact your business prospecting as well as your individual connections.
If you’re the best – the best will want to work with you. Being recognised as the ‘best in class’ and building your organisation’s brand helps attract new talent to your business – as well as engage with stakeholders.
Whilst most people understand the benefits of professional networking, many are hesitant to do so. To be honest, most people find the idea of introducing themselves to strangers not all that appealing. You have to work at it.
Here are some tips on how to be an effective networker:
Attend professional networking events: networking events are an excellent way to expand your professional network, improve your networking skills and stay on top of the latest trends within your industry. The AMI offers a range of networking opportunities hosting various events across Australia. Networking opportunities are a key benefit of AMI membership. Click here to see what’s coming up in your state.
Oh, and if you are attending a networking event, make sure you arrive early. It’s much easier to approach people before they settle into groups, so try to show up early and get the ‘lay of the land’.
If there aren’t any in-person events available, then consider attending virtual events and webinars.
Connect with the right people: If you want your networking efforts to work for you, then you need to be strategic. Instead of just talking to anyone at a networking event, connect with people that are likely to positively impact your career. Do your homework. If you arrive early, as suggested, check out the list of attendee names (name tags are usually on display) to see who you want to meet up with. If you want your network to work for you, then build relationships that are mutual otherwise the people in your network may feel as if you are using them for your own gain.
Maintain your network: professional relationships are not different from personal relationships – if you don’t put in the effort they may fail. Make sure you keep in touch with your professional network adding value where you can.
Build your online presence: Most effective networkers these days also build and maintain their professional networks using social media platforms. Make sure your social media profiles are up-to-date and accurate. Research shows that over 70% of prospective employers check and assess candidates’ social media pages so resist the temptation to overstate your experience and skills.
So, there you have it. In a nutshell, why professional networking is an essential element in building your career. Remember that effective networking is something that you need to work at. It doesn’t just happen.
Find out more about the networking benefits provided by AMI here.