Networking is one of the most important – if not THE most important – activities that you need to master to change your career or industry or improve your current one. Networking is not a one time activity that occurs by attending a meeting. It is an on-going activity that requires attention and care. If done right, networking has the ability to provide access to the hidden job market, create advancement opportunities in the workplace, and enable you to build business. To have a successful career, you must understand how to use your network in a positive manner so that you build long-lasting relationships.
We will review what it takes to generate opportunities and get a foot in the door to finally achieve your career transition goals. In Achieve, we discuss the art of negotiating offers and starting off on the right foot concluding with a discussion on the importance of lifelong career management.
What is a Network?
A network is a collection of people in your life with whom you build – or have – relationships for various professional and personal reasons. A network can contain people close to you (such as family) or people you barely know (like your doctor). You might meet these people at business or social occasions, or be introduced by friends or family. You may even have multiple networks that serve different purposes. For example, you may have a network of people that you socialize with for philanthropic events and a different network for your children’s school events. The more diverse your network, the better your ability to navigate the change process and identify opportunities in new areas.
Over time, your networks will evolve for a variety of reasons: changes in your life, changes in your work or professional life, or people moving to or away from your location. Building a strategic network takes a conscious effort on your part. You must first identify your reasons for building a network, and then understand how to meet the right people to help you reach your goals. Assess your current network, if you have one, to determine if it and the people in it meet the goals you are trying to achieve. If not, then you must ask yourself how you might change or expand your network.
When considering your network, ask yourself if anyone in your network may be able to introduce you to key decision makers at their companies or give you leads and helpful advice. Whether you feel comfortable asking for this kind of help or not, realize that the people who include you in their networks are asking themselves the same kinds of questions about you.
While you may be starting your active engagement with your network, many others have been at it for a while. Ask some of these colleagues how they have used their networks to their advantage. And, if they are in your target industry, make the most of the relationships with these acquaintances to facilitate your transition. It is clearly to your benefit to build and sustain a network throughout your career.
Networking is important to your career for many reasons and if developed and nurtured can bring you long-term benefits. Some of the benefits of building a network are listed below:
- Find hidden career opportunities
- Provide a lifeline of support
- Generate leads for business opportunities
- Meet and share ideas with like-minded individuals