Networking as a concept and phenomenon, and why it is important has always fascinated me. This is partly because of my own struggles with it. This fascination even grew to a point where I decided to conduct my own research study on the topic. While my study focused on self-limiting factors that prevent early career women of color from engaging in networking behaviors, the results revealed a certain level of relevance to all professionals. Because individuals at all stages in their careers are impacted by how effective or ineffective they are at networking, the more knowledge they have, the better equipped they will be to get out there and network.
What is Networking?
Networking, or professional networking, can be defined as behaviors aimed at building and maintaining relationships for the benefit of advancing one’s career. Research has shown that there are several beneficial aspects for an individual when networking including, improved learning, knowledge acquisition, and career success.
Career success can be viewed both objectively and subjectively. Objectively, career success can be in the form of observable accomplishments such as pay and promotion. Subjectively, it can be viewed in terms of a self-appraisal of success. For example, have you met the goals you have set for yourself? Are you where you expected to be at this point in your career?
Engaging in Networking Behaviors
In order to reap the benefits of networking, one has to engage in networking behaviors. There are a multitude of behaviors, however these five activities are key.
So…Why is networking important?
Networking is important because not only does it expose you to people, places and experiences that will develop you as a professional, it also…
- increases opportunities to learn,
- helps with your forward and upward career movement,
- connects you with people who have shared passions,
- provides opportunities for knowledge sharing, and
- positions you for a potential pay increase or promotion!
Always keep in mind that relationships are mutually beneficial. Never go into a professional relationship with the sole purpose of seeking ways where only you will benefit. Go in knowing what you can bring to the table, and make sure you are able to express how the other person will benefit from connecting with you.
Now go network!