Learning how to network effectively is one of the most important professional skills you need to master, regardless of your industry or expertise.
In this post, you’ll learn why networking is important and how to network effectively based on your unique needs.
Why Networking Matters
Many of the benefits of networking seem obvious. You can find new job opportunities and learn from new connections. Here are six additional benefits of networking.
1. Networking increases your visibility in your industry.
Networking can help improve your visibility within your niche in two ways.
- The most obvious is that the more people you share your offer/skillset/experience with, the more people become aware of who you are and what you have to offer.
- The less obvious but more powerful way is through the “by association” effect.
Being associated with certain people in your network leads to greater exposure. Here’s how this works.
If you’re doing networking right, you’ll have instances or opportunities to associate with well-known figures in your industry. That could be through engagement on social platforms, collaborations, and maybe even direct endorsements.
This type of visibility:
- Exposes you to new audiences you might otherwise have difficulty getting in front of.
- Confers a degree of credibility which helps to build trust before any direct interaction with that audience.
2. Networking helps you build a “professional support system.”
The support of a robust and leveraged network is invaluable.
For every obstacle you encounter, there is the likelihood that someone in your network has the tools, resources, or connections to solve it. Or perhaps you’re in a unique position to solve a challenge someone else is facing.
Whether it’s launching a new product or finding new opportunities (jobs, grants, scholarships, etc.), your network is a collective that can be leveraged to provide a solution or amplify your message.
3. You can receive mentorship.
Networking allows you to find and connect with leaders in your niche through events, groups, direct outreach, or even social media interactions.
Once these connections have been made, you can ask questions, observe their processes up close, and request formal mentorship.
4. You can get constructive feedback from your peers.
There are so many ways to learn from peers in your network. One of the easiest and lowest friction methods is engaging with them on the platforms where you’re connected.
However, the more “high-touch” methods like (virtual) coffee dates or coworking sessions can be invaluable learning opportunities.
Your peers can offer a new perspective on the challenges you face. Their feedback often proves invaluable.
5. You’ll have access to more information.
Not every job posting or industry trend is public knowledge. Sometimes, positions are only posted internally. New information may be discussed in private meetings before trade publications.
Having a solid network means you don’t have to rely solely on public information. Instead, you’ll have greater insight into your industry.
A fun way to think about this is like having hundreds of eyes and ears across multiple levels, organizations, and verticals.
6. You can fine-tune social skills.
To become an effective networker, you must master social skills, including listening, sharing, and collaborating effectively.
Remember, the value of these skills isn’t limited to networking. Social skills can also be helpful for:
- Interacting with your colleagues in the workplace
- Presenting your ideas effectively
- Communicating your value for career advancement opportunities
And much more.
9 Networking Stats to Know
- Introductions make a difference. In a 2020 survey from LinkedIn, 73% of respondents were hired as a result of someone they know making an introduction or a connection. Another 70% had a personal connection to someone in the company.
- Research has also shown that your network is invaluable for job seekers. According to findings from a 2022 survey, 42% of professionals found their current jobs through some form or effect of networking. This includes things like a referral, applying to openings shared in their network, and more.
- One study also recently found that a user’s “weak ties” on LinkedIn can increase job transmissions and impact job mobility — even more than stronger, closer connections.
- But the true power of your network lies in referrals. A 2022 survey found that 37% of professionals believe referrals are the top factor influencing the likelihood of landing a job.
- Additionally, according to Jobvite, the third highest area of recruitment investment focus in 2021 was employee referrals (34%).
- When it comes to referrals, 49% of hiring managers said they pay closer attention to referrals’ resumes. Additionally, 52% said a referral also increases the likelihood they’ll interview the candidate.
- A 2021 survey also found that 79% of companies offer employee referral programs to help find new talent.
- Another 2021 survey corroborated these findings by reporting that 67% of organizations use an employee referral system.
- Despite its numerous benefits, a recent survey found that over 75% of full-time employees have put less effort into building their network since the pandemic.
Networking Best Practices
While networking is important, the process may not come naturally for everyone. That’s why we’ve gathered these five best practices to help you along the way.
1. Be strategic.
While it might be tempting to dive in immediately, laying the right foundation yields the best results. Start by building a strategy to help you focus your networking efforts, maintain consistency, and ensure accountability.
You want to ensure that you have a plan comprising realistic objectives and activities to help you achieve your goals.
Let’s say suppose your objective is to build a high-value, engaged LinkedIn network. Set a goal to connect with 20 industry leaders every week. You can also commit to sending out ten personalized connection requests daily.
When building your strategy, consider your location, communication preferences, strengths, weaknesses, industry, and more. For example, you may work remotely from a rural area. Your strategy may involve traveling for events or focusing on virtual networking opportunities.
Pro tip: Avoid spreading yourself too thin, especially at the beginning. Start with 1-3 goals and work from there.
2. Come prepared.
Networking events can be fast-paced and overwhelming. Showing up unprepared is a surefire way to bungle any interactions you might have.
Here are some helpful tips to help you get ready:
- Research attendees and hosts before the event. It’s essential to know who you might want to network with, what these people do, and, most importantly, how you might be of value as a connection.
- Optimize your online profiles. Ideally, if you made a good impression, the people you meet at the networking event will search for you. This means that you need to ensure that your online profiles are clear and cohesive.
- Prepare a simple icebreaker or conversation starter. A great way to get over the initial hurdle of striking up a conversation is to lead with a simple icebreaker. This can be anything from a personalized compliment to relevant topics in your industry.
- Have your business cards handy. Once it’s time to move on from a conversation, you need to give your new connections a way to find you. That’s where your business card comes in. Consider creating a digital alternative using a solution like HiHello. You can also add a QR code to your printed card that leads directly to your LinkedIn.
Pro tip: Although events are helpful, networking opportunities can surface anywhere. For this reason, put together a simple “elevator pitch” that covers who you are, what you do, and why it’s interesting. Be ready with this information at all times.
3. Communicate effectively.
When networking, you might only have a few minutes to make an impression. Even in this short time, you’ll want to foster an enjoyable, two-way conversation. Here are a few ways to do this:
- Give the person your undivided attention. Put away any devices or distractions, and, as much as possible, keep fidgeting to a minimum.
- Listen carefully and ask relevant, thoughtful follow-up questions.
- Give the other person ample opportunities to speak. No one likes being talked over or talked at. Take periodic pauses and use questions to encourage the other person to contribute to the discussion.
Pro tip: Look for common ground during conversations. Mutual interests or connections can be great levers to build camaraderie.
4. Add value during your interactions.
Right from the initial outreach (for remote networking) or the first conversation (in-person networking), you want to ensure that you’re always giving more than asking.
Here are some ways to do this:
- Offer to connect them to someone within your network.
- Provide feedback on their current projects (where appropriate).
- Or simply offer your services/expertise.
Pro tip: Research is your best friend. Before attending any networking event, take time to figure out your potential connection’s role, current projects, and challenges. You can then find areas where you might be able to help.
5. Maintain your relationships.
So, you’ve successfully added a new contact to your network. The real work is just beginning. Now, you have to build a relationship with this contact and establish rapport.
Here are some practical and non-intrusive ways to do this:
- Share any high-value, relevant opportunities you come across. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to send share opportunities with each connection personally. However, if you know there are people in your network that match a particular job description, simply share it in your group, forum, or feed.
- Engage with their content. If you’re a social media contact or email list member, occasionally take time to share and engage with their content.
- Reach out during milestones. Did your connection just land a new job? Reach out with a congratulatory message. Make it a point to celebrate important milestones through a like, comment, or thoughtful message.
Pro tip: A great way to build a deeper relationship with your connections is by offering support when they need it. This could be as simple as sharing their content to improve visibility or as grand as recommending them for a position when they’re actively searching.
Building A Strong Professional Network
No matter how daunting networking might seem, mastering this skill is well with the effort.
When done correctly, networking can completely transform your career. Whether you’re a business owner or a job holder, a robust network will take you much farther and faster than you could ever go alone.