Think you don’t need a robust professional network? Think again.
No one loves the term “networking.” Including me. And yet, we all want what professional networking has to offer: Opportunities. Camaraderie. Business. Friendship. Reach. Plus, who doesn’t love recommending smart friends and colleagues for interesting career opportunities?
The problem is that few people like walking into a room full of strangers. But that’s not the totality of networking; that’s just one part of it. Industry conferences and business events are where networking starts, but not where it ends.
In order for your professional network to mean something and to serve you, you must serve it. This is why building and maintaining a strong network is so critical. (And no, clicking “Connect” on LinkedIn doesn’t count.)
Here are five reasons why I’ve found that building a thriving, expansive professional network is even more important than your current job:
Investing in relationships pays off long term
Your resume is where you’ve been. Your job is where you are right now. Your professional network encompasses all the people you’ve worked with and known; it will also connect you with important people you’ve yet to meet. It’s your past, present and future. After all, you might leave your job, or it might leave you. Your network has the power to grow — and take you with it. But you have to make the time to deepen and expand your network.
Read the author’s tips on building your personal brand.
Your professional network makes you more valuable
What benefits you also benefits the company you work with or for. Knowing good people who could become valuable clients, vendors, employees and freelancers is key. If you stay plugged into your network, you’ll also be exposed to ideas and practices outside of your company, or even your industry. That means you’ll learn things that you wouldn’t in the confines of your job. This will make you a more effective contributor, and positively impact the way you think about and do your job.
It makes you more independent, not less
The presumption of need makes everyone uncomfortable. But that’s why you don’t network only when you’re in dire straits. Your network thrives most when you come to it freely and happily, eager to give others a job lead, advice or a referral. Consistently devoting time to your network will give you far more options and resources. It’s a bit of a safety net. When the chips are down you’ll find support and be less likely to feel needy, dependent or desperate.
Check out these answers to frequently asked networking questions.
It helps you find (and leave) work
I bet you didn’t think of it this way. But it’s so true. All too often we view networking as a way to “get” us something — job offers, freelance assignments, new clients. And while a healthy network will bring business in, it also gives you a way out of where you are if you want it. Show me a person who feels trapped and stuck, and I’ll show you a person who has put little effort into their network.
No one really works alone
Anyone who’s achieved a thing worth having has done it with the help of someone else. In other words, no creative professional is above networking. And despite all our rah-rah-ing around entrepreneurialism and independence, the fact is we will never not need each other. And that’s actually a good thing.
Stop seeing your professional network as an umbrella, something you reach for only when it rains. Because if you wait until the day of a downpour, there will be nothing to reach for. Instead, think of networking as an ongoing game, like Minecraft, which holds my nephew’s attention for hours. You play and win by building stuff together. Your network can be that, too — a game where everyone wins.
Terri Trespicio is a writer and brand strategist, and the co-creator of Lights Camera Expert, a program for helping entrepreneurs, experts and authors get media attention for their big ideas. You can get a free copy of her ebook “Take the Work Out of Networking” at territrespicio.com.