Common knowledge says that networking is a way for job seekers to better their chances of finding employment because it’s a way of making contacts at companies that may be hiring.
Traditionally, networking consists mainly of passing out business cards and connecting on LinkedIn. In reality, networking is so much more.
Related Article: A Networking Strategy to Grow Your Peer Base
Why Do We Network?
Networking is still a great way to tap into the job market, and about half of companies use employee referrals and networking sites to find new hires. But networking can be used for so much more than just finding a great job or hiring excellent employees.
Musicians and artists use networking strategies to build a following and get discovered by new fans and even producers. Scientists use network contacts when looking for funding for new research. Contractors in construction and other industries use their networks to find to new contracts and keep business flowing. Networking allows professionals in many industries to get to know one another and their communities.
What Networking Really Looks Like
Every individual builds multiple networks for various purposes. To be truly successful, you need a variety of contacts, such as these:
Operational contacts: These are people who have roles that are central to the success of your business. Operational contacts include people within your company, such as employees and executives, and people outside the company, like distributors and customers.
Strategic contacts: This category is made up of people who share knowledge, ideas and influence within an industry. Your network of strategic contacts could include people with whom you have mentoring relationships and everyone from industry leaders to professional peers.
Personal contacts: Your social contacts are the people who offer support and opportunities for referrals. They include coaches, mentors and members of your community. In addition to offering professional and career-related benefits, social networks can have a positive impact on our health. There is evidence that strong social ties may decrease symptoms of dementia and other physical ailments.
Where You Can Build Networks
We can network anywhere. Here’s a look at a few of the possibilities:
At work: Business leaders network with employees to build better relationships within the company. An important approach to networking within your company is to get out of the office and meet colleagues in a neutral environment. Getting to know one another without the distractions of work can boost creativity and inspire new ways of thinking.
Among fellow professionals: Networking among industry professionals most closely resembles the traditional way of networking. But in addition to helping one another find employment opportunities, professional contacts can work together to share referrals, form cooperative advertising campaigns and exchange knowledge on their industries.
In the community: Consumers are more likely to patronize a business that is active in community organizations. Participating in organizations like the local chamber of commerce is a great way to build your company’s reputation while making casual contacts to build your network.
Building Relationships That Work
Networking is about much more that finding a job, and it is an activity that encompasses all sorts of social and professional activities. When building your network, the most important thing to remember is to build strong relationships with your contacts. It’s far better to have a few strong contacts than a long list of names of people you barely know.
To learn more about how networking can help you, and how to do it, check out this infographic.