Networking has had a bad reputation. Often times, people misunderstand it as an opportunistic practice lacking authenticity. Some people see it as unnecessary small talk and some imagine it is about begging for favours. While others think it is merely exchanging information with strangers.

People have different personalities, and while networking comes naturally to some, introverts may find it extremely draining and intimidating. Networking skills are, however, crucial to anyone intending to start or advance their career. It may seem awkward at first, but the benefits of networking go beyond your career progression.

What is networking?

Networking involves establishing and developing long-term relations of mutual benefit with people you meet in different places. Whether you are part of a sports league, attending a conference or in the queue to order a morning coffee, you can make a lifetime connection.

There are always networking opportunities all around for those who are intentional about creating networks. You do not need to register for every seminar or engage in several professional associations to meet new people. In this smartphone era, one needs to keep gadgets away to interact and connect with people intentionally.

Importance of networking

Interacting with people from different professions, nationalities, and cultures gives you a broader scope of life. Your open-mindedness increases every time you socialise with people from diverse backgrounds, ages and points of view. Another advantage of networking is that this open-mindedness and understanding teaches you to become a better team player.

Apart from broadening an individual’s view of life, there are many benefits of networking. Think about it: networking is an opportunity to practice starting conversations, communicating clearly and learning about people around you. It’s a no-brainer! These interactions will increase your confidence, and you will no longer feel anxious about starting a conversation with strangers.

With pressures like deadlines and targets, experts stress the importance of social networking as a stress reliever. Meeting people who are going through similar experiences or have overcome obstacles you may be facing is always a great learning opportunity making you a better individual.

An Undeniable Benefit of Networking

One of the undeniable  benefits of networking is the impact on your business or career. Experts agree that success has a direct link to your networking skills. This is why the most connected individuals end up as the most successful. Investing in both personal and professional relationships pays back throughout your career course. Through interacting with people, you will keep a pulse on the job market, stay in touch with current trends, and meet prospective clients, partners, and mentors. Besides developing and improving your skillset, networking gives you access to the resources necessary to foster your career development.

A positive word about you from a relevant source to your potential employer works like magic. People are also inclined to trust referrals for business and service providers than engage strangers, especially for delicate and time-sensitive projects.

How to start networking

Sleeping as an introvert and waking up as an extrovert is impossible. You cannot, therefore, expect to get up and start initiating exciting conversations with people you just met if that is not your nature. Excellent communication skills take time to build.

Since there is no “one style fits all” networking rule, different tactics work for different people. To determine what works best for you, one may have to try various strategies to find out what suits you best. Introverts, for example, are safer with one-on-one conversations or smaller meetups, as crowds intimidate them.

Complimenting someone’s outfit or accessories while waiting for your coffee, train, or service is all it takes to start a conversation, develop a relationship and network.

How to network successfully

Implementing your most comfortable approach will fast-track your networking goals. When you have identified your best strategy and networking style, consider places and events to network.

While traditional cocktail parties offer excellent networking avenues, there are many other opportunities to connect. Family events, friends’ weddings, graduation events, or even birthdays are some occasions one can use to network. Capitalize on your circles, like family, colleagues, and friends from school and university as you expand outwards.  Attending any work events and seminars will help you mingle with people that you are most comfortable within your circle. Sports clubs and cultural groups are other options to explore.

Volunteering your skills is another brilliant way to grow your network as you learn and also helps you give back to the community. You will not only learn about available opportunities but also get exposed to diverse career paths.

Networking means to think outside the box

Networking is not just about receiving or asking; the best way to connect is by giving. You may not have a solution if someone comes to you for help, but you can link them to a person who can meet their needs.

It pays to think outside the box and beyond the corporate cocktails when thinking about networking. Every gathering can offer networking opportunities if utilized well, since getting to know new people is a natural event. Therefore, networking is not limited to formal events or specific circumstances but rather can take place anywhere and anytime.

Nurturing new relationships from networking is crucial. Just like an interview, following up with any new connection is of utmost importance. Start by sending a LinkedIn request with a personalized message and tagging those in your network to articles that would interest them. Something like “It was great meeting you at the X event” will remind your new contact who you are.

Conclusion

One of the obvious benefits of networking is fast-tracking your career growth and improving your communication skills. Having a good reputation with a wide range of people will increase your chances of getting referrals and job opportunities, so don’t restrict yourself to traditional networking circles. You never know who someone may be able to connect you to or what you might learn.

Take the time to find the right type of networking strategy for you and focus on making it a positive experience. In doing so, networking will become less of a hassle and more of a fun opportunity to improve yourself. Trust us, you won’t regret learning how to network well.

Have any additional networking tips to share? Let us know below!

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