Eighty percent of professionals believe networking is critical for their career success.
Still, it can be difficult to muster up the enthusiasm for building professional connections when you’re already satisfied with your job and have no desire to leave your employer anytime soon. Is it really necessary to put effort into networking, then?
The answer is a resounding “yes.”
During these trying times, it gives you a community when so many of us are feeling isolated. It also keeps you on other people’s radar — you never know when you might need to tap into your network. And then there’s the fact that you simply can’t predict the future. We’re living through an uncertain, unprecedented period, and there’s no doubt our lives, professionally and personally, with be forever changed. Who knows what your career will look like in a year or 10 years?
Now that you know the importance of networking, how do you get started — even if you hate traditional networking?
1. Be active on LinkedIn.
Ensure your LinkedIn profile is up to date and showcases your skills, qualifications and experience. This is far more than a resume — it should really demonstrate who you are as a professional.
Beyond updating your profile, continue to build your connection base. Reach out to people within your network, as well as prospective connections you admire. Comment on, say, an article you saw that they wrote or a talk they delivered. Join groups. Read articles. Solicit advice. Ask for recommendations.
2. Get to know colleagues outside of your immediate department.
It’s easy to get bogged down in your day-to-day responsibilities and keep your communication limited to your immediate circle. But it’s also important to get to know colleagues outside of your area, too.
By learning about how other departments and niches within your industry work, you’re expanding your horizons and increasing your opportunities to build your career. So why not ask that coworker in sales to get lunch sometime and learn about how they got to where they are today?
3. Refer others.
When you help others, they’ll be all the more motivated to support you. When colleagues reach out to you for recommendation requests, be more than willing to do it. And don’t wait for them to ask, either! Actively lift others up, such as by writing LinkedIn recommendations for the people you work with now or have worked with in the past.
This will solidify your reputation as a supportive colleague and allow you to strengthen your network for when it really matters.
4. Stay in touch.
Once you’ve established connections, you still need to maintain them. This is one of the most difficult parts of the process, but it’s a pivotal one nonetheless.
You want to keep yourself on others’ radar. The strategies we’ve mentioned above can help — providing references for others and reaching out to comment on your contacts’ professional activities — but your efforts should go beyond that.
Reach out to touch base every so often. In order to make this a regular practice, consider setting goals for yourself. For example, perhaps you’ll have a quota of reaching out to, say, five contacts per month. You don’t necessarily have to sit down for coffee — you could simply send them a quick help on social media. It’s a small amount of effort, but it can go a long way in helping you become a solid networker and establish yourself as a well-regarded professional in the field.
What's your no. 1 piece of networking advice (even when you're not looking for a job)? Share your answer in the comments to help other Fairygodboss'ers!
About the Career Expert:
Laura Berlinsky-Schine is a freelance writer and editor based in Brooklyn with her demigod/lab mix Hercules. She specializes in education, technology and career development. She also writes satire and humor, which has appeared in Slackjaw, Points in Case, Little Old Lady Comedy, Jane Austen’s Wastebasket and The Haven.