Brushing Up on Professional Development: the Importance of Networking


Growing up, and even as an adult, were all aware of those A personality types that people are naturally drawn to. Whether it was your older sister, your roommate in college, or your co-worker two office doors down from you, there’s always those types of people in our lives who can naturally hold conversations with anyone, make friends anywhere, and are the life of the party.

But…thats not to say that youre not an equally social butterfly–just in your own way! Yet even so, there are some of us who look at socializing as a chore. While youd rather be at home in your PJs watching Mad Men than networking at a Meet the Firms event or even at a holiday party, here are some reasons why networking plays such a significant role in your professional development, both career-wise and personally.

Get Outside your Comfort Zone
Its easy to stay in your bubble where youre perfectly content. You know what your workload is, what you have to do each day, and whats expected of you. However, if youre not careful, you could find yourself becoming trapped in a state of complacency. Whatever happened to those other plans you had for yourself, like teaching some day or moving down into a smaller public accounting firm where youll have more time to go fishing on the weekends? The great thing about networking is that it forces you out of your bubble and allows you to see what other people are doing and how theyre doing it.

The other great thing about networking is that as you get to speak to these people, youll get a better understanding of where they came from, where theyre hoping to go, and what their career trajectories can tell you about your own future goals. So even if youre uncomfortable with the thought of going out there and meeting lots of new, different people, thats okay. We all are, on some level. But the worst thing you can do for yourself is not give it a try.The more you put yourself out there, the more comfortable youll eventually become. Which leads us to our next point.

Gain Opportunities
At the basis of every networking interaction is the chance to gain an opportunity. And it doesnt always have to be work related. After all, thats what building your network is all about. The math is simple. The more people in your network, the larger amount of opportunities you will gain. So if youre looking to venture out toward a different career path, want to advance in the one youre currently in, or are just looking to explore other roles that may tailor to your needs better, networking is the best way to do that. People are always more than happy to share their experiences, trials, and tribulations with others who are genuinely interested, especially if its going to help influence their future career goals. Never underestimate a persons willingness to provide aid and insight in any situation.

Additionally, the more people you bring into your network, the more connections you
will have to their connections. They might not know of an opening in their company that suits what youre looking for, but a friend of a friend just might. Also, think of the large advantage youll have when searching for opportunities that arent recommended by your network. If you find a job listing that interests you, check to see who the hiring manager is or whos in that department. Look them up on LinkedIn and if your network is large enough, youre sure to find someone who has a first or second connection with them or whos connected to someone else who knows them much more personally.

The bottom line is that people gravitate toward and hire those they like and trust. Once you build that rapport with your network, they have the ability to vouch for you and carry you along much further in attaining your career goals.

Make Friends
A mistake that many people make when they think about expanding their network is that its all about getting as many LinkedIn connections as possible or filling their wallets with business cards. But theres a big difference between making an acquaintance and having someone actually remember you. And the simple way to actually build a network instead of having a collection of people on your LinkedIn page is to create a rapport with your network and make them more than just connections to opportunities–make them your friends.

Although networkers know that the basis of relationships with other networkers is to expand their reach and horizons, its a very small percentage that many professionals actually take the time to create friendships with those in their networks. Take this extra step, and the next time you need a recommendation or introduction to someone, your connection wont think of you as Oh yeah, that guy from the cocktail party, but rather Oh yeah! Joe from the cocktail party! Great guy. Studying for the last section of his CPA Exam and actually goes to the same brunch place I do on the weekends.

So, keep in touch and create a friendly relationship with your network thats genuine and generous. Get to know them personally and professionally. Invite them to other events that youll be attending and that you think will be of interest to them. Send articles pertaining to their job title, industry, or other things you know theyre intrigued by. Send simple emails asking them how a projects coming along or about their friends and family that they told you about the last time you spoke.

The more rapport you build with someone, the more trust you have in them and the more trust theyll have in you. The best advantage you can give yourself is giving them the chance to know you better as a person beyond someone in a suit. This way, the next time an opportunity presents itself, youll be the first in line as a candidate.  

Gain Assistance
The people in your network are part of your network for another very obvious reason: a resource to help you along your career, and ultimately, life path since both are interconnected. Theyre the ones who can offer you great advice thats not only insightful, but realistic, because, as much as wed like to think, the internet doesnt have all the answers. Think of your network as a group of people you can rely on to keep yourself on track or to give you sound counsel in times of distress, uncertainty, or general need.

Also, take into consideration that networking is a reciprocal relationship. Your network isnt just there for you; youre also there for them. Offer to share your connections and your own experiences or opportunities to others who may need them. A small favor that you do for anyone in your network will eventually make its way back to you.

Surround Yourself with Positivity
The phrase you are what you eat can also apply to the type of person you are based on the people you surround yourself with. Your network can serve as a source of motivation to keep you ambitious and inspired. As you learn more about everyones stories and backgrounds, you can definitely find inspiration and support in your everyday endeavors. The more positive people you have in your life, the happier youll be!

So get out there and network! Youll be happy you did.

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