If you’re anything like me, you might see the word “networking” and feel the urge to run in the other direction. For us introverts, attending events and talking to people we don’t know seems like a nightmare, but I’ve learned over the course of my professional life that networking can be not only fun, but also extremely beneficial and, frankly, essential. In this blog, we’ll dive into why networking is important and provide you with our best business networking tips for making meaningful professional connections.
Why is networking important?
Let’s start with what networking is and then dive into why it’s important, shall we?
Business networking is the act of meeting and maintaining positive professional relationships. It is cultivating meaningful relationships with others in your industry or with those who share similar interests to yours. Why is this important? For starters, according to the 2020 Job Seeker Nation Survey by Jobvite, 31% of job seekers find out about available positions through professional connections. And 45% find job listings through friends. Let’s not forget that friends are important connections as well!
31% of job seekers find out about available positions through professional connections
Want more juicy stats? How about this one: 85% of positions are filled through networking. Read that again. 85% of positions are filled through networking. So not only are you able to find out about jobs by maintaining positive relationships but hiring managers are able to find out about you because of your (and their) positive relationships.
There are other benefits that come from networking aside from career advancement, though. Humans are social creatures. We thrive on human interaction and connection. Ergo (yes, I said “ergo”), networking is beneficial to our social well-being! And not only do we build important relationships in the process, but we improve our professional confidence as well. Not to mention the fact that through networking, we open ourselves up to other perspectives and ideas that can help us to navigate our lives and careers toward success.
It’s all who you know
Ok, as I was thinking about this topic and seeking inspiration, I found this great article from 2018 about how we need to re-think the phrase “It’s all who you know.” I love the author’s perspective that we need to shift our mindset from the “who” being influential people at the top to them being people of all professional levels that share common interests and goals.
In the early weeks of 2020, before the pandemic, I was struggling to feel happy at my job. As I mentioned in my previous blog, Work/Life Balance Improves Life and Increases Productivity, I was burnt out, having given too much personal time to my work over many years. One of my best friends, Melanie (who you all know as our brilliant OG account manager), called me to meet her for a drink on a particularly tough day. I nearly backed out because I was feeling down and drained, but she convinced me to go and meet her friend who she’d told all about me. So I went, and that was the night I met our founder and CEO Chris. I had no idea that I was basically walking into a job interview that night, but that drink at our favorite trivia bar turned out to be an incredibly important moment for me. A week or so later, I received a job offer and turned in my resignation from my previous job.
So you see, even friendships can be beneficial for your career moves. Networking doesn’t have to be a scary thing. It’s about showing up, being yourself, cultivating the connections you make, and maintaining the connections you already have–no matter their professional level. Keep reading for tips on how to hone your networking skills.
Our top business networking tips
Tip 1: Join common interest groups
There’s something out there for everyone. Do some research and join networking groups related to your industry and interests. Social media is a good place to start for online forums, but also look at what’s available in your area where you can connect with people in person. Even if you’re shy, if you surround yourself with others who have common interests, you’ll quickly find yourself opening up and feeling more confident.
Tip 2: Attend events whether in-person or virtual
Don’t shy away from attending events and meeting new people. Sometimes the best way to get over social anxiety is to push through it and find ways of enjoying yourself in the process. I used to be debilitatingly shy. I barely spoke to anyone I didn’t already know well until I went to an out-of-state college where I knew nobody.
Living on campus and attending school events really forced me to come out of my shell and helped me to grow. I still have many close friends and contacts from my college years and have been able to build on that network throughout my professional career. Showing up is half the battle, as they say. Imagine if I hadn’t shown up to have that drink with Melanie and Chris!
Tip 3: Follow up with connections you make
What do you do once you’ve met some new people? Make notes for yourself about who you met and what you talked about. Connect with them on LinkedIn and keep in touch with them. Sometimes even just engaging on people’s posts can keep you top of mind for referrals when opportunities arise. Or if there’s someone you particularly enjoyed talking to, set up a meeting with them. Grab a coffee or invite them to chat on Zoom for some face-time. Amazing things can happen when you open yourself up to discussing ideas and perspectives with others.
Tip 4: Be nice
It seems like a no-brainer, but I’ve personally been surprised at how many people I’ve met over my professional career who have specifically told me they were happy to help me because I’m nice. A smile can go a long way in making someone remember you and want to stay connected with you.
Business networking can sound so official and scary (especially for us introverts), but it doesn’t have to be. Think about it as making new friends who can help you throughout your personal life and professional career. As a company that specializes in connection, we strongly believe in our own networking skills.