Networking is one the most common traits of people who are successful in their corporate careers. According to a recent survey, about 80% of professionals consider networking to be an important tool for achieving career growth. But the survey also revealed that, despite the value networking can create, a large number of professionals do not keep in touch with their contacts in actual practice.
Networking is often mistaken to be an attribute that comes naturally, and only, to certain kind of people. Employees who are not very social otherwise tend to find networking quite daunting and give it up even before attempting. In reality, it is a skill that can be learned and honed with time and practice. Networking can also seem difficult to those who judge the practice as inauthentic behavior. But is it really so?
Let us revisit networking, its benefits, and some ways to build your network more effectively.
add networking to your to-do list
35% of 15,905 LinkedIn members globally said that they find it difficult to stay connected with their network. About 49% cite ‘lack of time’ as one of the main reasons for not being able to do so. These stats show that workers do understand the importance of networking at their workplace, but do not prioritize it. To get over this hurdle, set some time aside just like you would for other work-related tasks. Schedule it during lunch hours or other breaks when you think you will have the opportunity to freely interact.
build a network that’s mutually beneficial
A Robert Half survey studied the networking habits of 2,200 Chief Financial Officers (CFOs). 30% of respondents said that ‘not asking for help’ was one of the major networking mistakes committed by employees. In the same survey, 14% of the CFOs said that ‘not helping others’ was another such mistake. Employees often shy away from asking for help at work assuming that their colleagues would think less of them. Similarly, we often underestimate our power to be resourceful in helping others. Understand that networking works in the long-term only when it is a two-way street. Asking for help and offering it when you see someone in need will help you build that two-way bridge and create an effective network.
use social media to stay connected
This one is a no-brainer. In the era where social media has become one of the most powerful ways to stay connected, you must leverage it to build your professional network as well. According to a survey, about 61% of professionals agreed that staying connected online regularly with their professional network can open up new career opportunities for them. Clearly, this is one of the best ways to maintain your professional relationships both within and outside your organization. It allows you to keep the links of your network active even when you or your colleagues switch departments or companies.
keep in touch even when you don’t need to
One of the key ways to maintain your circle is to stay in touch, especially when you do not need anything. Look at networking simply as building a relationship. You do not appreciate relations where people just show up when they need something. It goes the same way for others too. 23% of respondents fail to keep in touch with their network or do so only in the time of need. This networking strategy could work but only in the short run, preventing you from realizing the true potential of networking.
Building a strong professional network is like building a skill which is important for growing in your career. Do not force yourself to go against your core nature but do not hold yourself back either. Gradually push your boundaries by finding ways to connect with more people.