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What is professional networking, and why is it important?

What is professional networking?

Professional networking carries enormous power, which is more than capable of changing your career trajectory for good, in both the short run and long run. The competitive advantage that professional networking offers cannot be substituted by any other factors, making it a unique way to establish an edge over your peers. Professional networking differs from social networking as it offers a mutually beneficial long-term association that bears its fruit as and when required. Built entirely on trust, professional networking can be understood as an ‘add-on’ that helps to materialize your career goals swiftly. Looking at the entire process of professional networking as a ‘professional relationship building process’ invariably clears the air of uncertainty and doubt surrounding it. Exploring the different dimensions and dynamics of professional networking emerges as an unavoidable step in your efforts towards career progression. Brace yourself!

This article dwells deep into the varieties of professional relationship building, the multitude of ways it is to be carried out, the competitive advantage it offers (benefits), and most importantly, the networking mistakes one must avoid. Examples of networking emails and communication strategies attached here should equip you in effectively harnessing all professional relationship establishing opportunities.  

Varieties of professional networking 

Enquiring into the importance of networking, the rule of thumb is that a well-connected individual holds higher chances of being successful. In a glimpse, the payback of professional networking includes your development and growth of your skillset, updates on your industry’s live trends and requirements, enriched accessibility to required resources, and the likelihood of meeting soon-to-be clients, partners, and mentors from the industry.  

★  Career Progression and Professional Networks

Career development is less associated with formal training these days. This is because the job opportunities and requirements change rapidly, and employees are all required to focus more on career development themselves. Since the burden to get updated lies with the individuals themselves, networking plays a vital role. It is very important to understand that the role of informal learning has significantly increased. Conversations with colleagues, seniors, peers in the industry, and those with different career interests help expand your perspective and enrich your crisis management abilities. It is undeniable that informal training constitutes the lion’s share of one’s work experience. 

Networking is fundamental when it comes to acquiring soft skills, increasing one’s visibility to the top management, availing the inputs and suggestions of seniors and mentors, and thus bringing the better in yourself. 

★  Networking at workplace

Professional networking at the workplace breaks a dominant myth that is well prevalent everywhere. Building a professional relationship must not be stereotyped as an activity that finds its existence outside the workplace. Networking should not be considered as a free time engagement beyond your working hours. Smart work on professional networking starts with the efficient harnessing of all available opportunities that comes to you.

Networking with your colleagues plays a decisive role in establishing yourself in a new environment or bringing you closer to a promotion opportunity that you dream of. The most advantageous part of networking at the workplace is the perk of getting a prospective mentor within your department or in the organization. The value of having a suggestive and helpful mentor cannot be overstated. 

★  Role of Networking in Job Hunt 

As long as the importance of job referral exists, there are no two ways about the essentiality of professional networking in a job hunt. A professional relationship is a key that enables you to enter the organization, increase your options in the job market, find leads to your dream company, and so on. 

Why is professional networking important?

Various interrelated and interdependent reasons do professional networking important—an in-depth understanding of the same results in a very fruitful career and rapid realization of professional goals.

❏  Increased visibility

Increasing one’s visibility and becoming noticeable in the industry has the potential to ignite the fortunes of that individual. There exists a dependent relationship between professional networking and increased visibility. Successful job seekers, workers, and business persons have put their efforts into nurturing their professional relationships and effectively using them to turn the table in their favor. 

The basic assumption behind this effort to make oneself noticeable is that there is a tendency for the industry to notice those people who possess different and innovative capabilities. Similarly, it is crucial to have a strong professional network that makes the person visible. Increased visibility, without any doubt, bring in the perks of more opportunities, shortened job hunt, creative space, and fastened career growth. 

❏  Expanded opportunities 

It is not surprising that those professionals with higher professional relationships need minimal effort to meet their goals. The rapidness in achieving their goals is proportional to the strength of their professional networks. In a world where time is often associated with money and even recognized as a very limited resource, meeting the right clients, right employer, apt organization, and perfect company boosts your career growth trajectory very quickly. This is the byproduct of having a strong professional relationship network. 

❏  Evaluating skill sets

In a highly competitive environment, no qualification is enough qualification, and no skill set is enough skill set. Professional networks provide a great platform to self-evaluate your skills and arrive at constructive conclusions to help focus on the next step in your career. It is highly advantageous to remain competitive and less satisfied in a job market if you are ambitious. 

The ways other people have approached their career path similar to yours is a priceless learning one can get in a job market. Avoiding the common mistakes and improvising them for your good should be your focus. Furthermore, the ways in which you can reap maximum benefits out of your certifications is very crucial. This can only be achieved through a much stronger professional network and relationships with others in the same field. 

❏  Intellectual boost

Not everyone has the privilege of a well-trained mentorship in their career path. Employees are often required to express their intellectual capabilities, or in other cases, opportunities may surface where one can demonstrate their domain knowledge. It is a significant contribution that the professional network offers, which aids, assists, and guides you to channelize your intellectual abilities better. The positive effect of constructive conversations with your peers, colleagues, or seniors can never be undermined. 

A strong professional relationship provides you with a congregation of like-minded people where the returns on your efforts in terms of criticisms are very high. Hence, unleashing your creativity and intellectual abilities of you is a great fuel that takes you to greater career heights. 

❏  Support environment

Support environment in a highly competitive job market is a very limited resource. It is safe to say that one has to earn it. A good professional relationship network helps you to overcome difficulties which may be a common hurdle to everyone aspiring to a similar career path. Experienced campaigners and seniors may be able to give product advice and suggest changes in career paths. The important thing to be noted is that this is very low-hanging fruit but very often ignored. On the other level, high-profile individuals in your professional network may know the right person who could fix your problems, and such links may turn out to be life-changing. 

❏  Increased morale

Increased morale by virtue of more self-confidence and self-esteem can be seen as a byproduct of a strong professional network. The self-confidence that is earned through a long period of time through sustained interactions in your professional networks can put you in a very advantageous position in future endeavors. This is inclusive of the interview one has to take in the future. The rule of thumb is that the more professional networks you possess, the more self-confidence you possess and more dividends in your career progression. 

❏  Long term benefits 

The most important myth related to professional relationships is the hope that one can build a good professional network overnight. A professional network is a long-term relationship built on trust and confidence. Long-term benefits can only be harnessed through a mutual effort of giving and taking. In very simple terms, one should not expect anybody to share strategies or give advice to you if you have not met them in person or you are just connected to them.

Who are the integral members of your professional network?

The building of a professional network relationship is a slow process, but each of your connections can lead you to more connections, professionals, and potential employers. Hence, it is imperative that one should put real thought into actively looking for those who can contribute to your career beneficially. Here are a few examples of the same. It is to be noted that this list is just indicative, and it is always advised to have a professional network as diverse and Richa s possible. 

  • Colleagues, present and former – this is a one-stop solution for you if you are actively looking for recent trends and updates in your field. Also, this is something one cannot afford to be ignorant about. 
  • Professional community members (associations, consortium, or confederation) – this section of your professional network opens up opportunities to migrate to other fields and to get in touch with workers across fields. 
  • Alumni – exploring the alumni fraternity of your graduate school may be the right place for the start of your professional network-building process. 

  • Friends and family – firmly believing in the fact that one should open all doors while actively looking for career progression requires you to do this.

How should professional networking be carried out?

Here are some inputs on the key things you should keep in mind while carrying out professional networking.

➔  Well planned, well-practiced, well-executed

However uncomfortable the idea of a planned network building sounds, it is really important to explore that possibility. Given that the time for building a good professional network is not enough, one may be forced to plan a network-building process. In an active exploration for fruitful networks, one must not forget the basic thing that networking is a two-way street. Unless and until one appreciates the give and take relationships, it may land you in long-term troubles. 

A well-planned and practiced approach towards networking may help to surface out hidden job markets and opportunities. 

➔  Good listener, a good networker

The innate nature of human beings to talk about themselves needs to be seen with caution. On the flip side, there are people who approach the idea of networking to present themselves very well. This, in all cases, may not reap the benefits as expected. It is equally important to listen to others along with telling them about what you wish to do and how you plan to do it. Furthermore, you can listen to the conversation and 

improvise you are follow-up communication in a more fruitful manner. The rule of thumb here is that it is through your close listening that you identify opportunities. A good listener hence becomes a prerequisite to being a good networker. 

➔  Limited resource: Time

Time and timing determine your fate. This is closely related to your priority and preference. You never know when you are getting a chance to meet someone who may be able to help you. Planning too comes in here. One should always be prepared to present their case without any sort of confusion whenever a chance is available. 

Strategization also yields high. There are chances that, in a conference, you may not be able to meet the higher-up professional, but one can definitely try contacting their assistant or any other member of the company through whom a personal introduction could be done later. 

➔  Unwritten guidelines 

There are certain things that one needs to follow when they intentionally put some effort into professional network building. It is so crucial that ignorance of the same may result in all your efforts being counterproductive. 

Firstly, the preference of choice in any conversation should aim at knowing more about the company than asking outrightly for an interview. It is always advised to show some interest in knowing more about their work culture, organizational goals, and targets. This will enable you to better grasp the intent of the company without displeasing them. 

Secondly, the intent of your conversation can be strategically directed to letting them know your availability, interest in the sector, and enthusiasm. Instead, you must not ask for a job on the first go. It will make your case weaker, resulting in lesser chances of getting through. 

➔  Outside your domain

Efforts towards building a professional network need not always be stuck within your domain. The learning experience that comes with meeting professionals outside your domain is invaluable. One may get rewarded with newer perspectives, creative ideas, innovative techniques, and many more. Any attempt to map soft skills and methods from other domains to your own domain may be highly rewardful. And there is no harm in exploring things outside your domain. 

Similarly, volunteering is often suggested as a great technique of networking. It is a case of Pareto improvement or a win-win situation as you are guaranteed a learning experience along with professional network building. It also opens up a learning experience in terms of you getting closely introduced to a new working condition and career possibility. 

➔  Patience and follow-up.

The process of professional networking should never feel the pressure of time at any instance. Rushing through conversation aiming at quick outputs may backfire. Finding a common discussion topic and slowly building on it is the most dividend-generating soft skill. Depending on the domain of the individual, you can initiate a conversation about recommendations, referrals, or any other such information. 

It is to be noted that if you neglect the last step of follow-up, the entirety of your efforts on networking will go futile. In most situations, a long email right after you meet a person is not required. But it will be highly beneficial for you if you have taken a small effort to try getting connected with that person via LinkedIn. Following up determines the results to a great extent.

Networking email examples

Networking emails constitute a significant part of your efforts in building a professional networking relationship. These can be very short too. Hence, it is important that you understand the intention behind the mail through an effective template. 

The template can be as follows:

{ Greetings }

{ Context of you mail – where you met/ intention of this mail }

{ Expressing intent to learn/listen/meet – asking for advice }

{ Closing }

Example 1

Hi Gaurav,

I hope you’re having a great day!

It was very exciting to meet you at the organization level talk last week. Our conversation generated great interest in me about the trends in content marketing. I really look forward to meeting you again and discussing more the same in detail. 

I am looking forward to hearing from you.

Thanks and regards,

Ashik

Example 2:

Hello Avinash,

Thank you for connecting with me on LinkedIn yesterday. It’s such a pleasure to connect with you.

I saw your article published about creative content writing trends. It really proposed some great insights. I was wondering if I could listen to our thoughts on trends in creative content writing. 

I am looking forward to connecting with you.

Thanks and regards,

Gautam

Must avoid mistakes while networking

Here is a list of the mistakes one must avoid while networking. This indicative list will help you to avoid such mistakes in your networking encounter. 

❏ Online communication can never substitute face-to-face meetings. The more you shy away from face-to-face meetings, the more difficult it is going to be regarding the perks and benefits.

❏ Never misunderstand a good conversationalist for a dominant conversationalist. It will help if you put real effort into listening. The more you talk about yourself, the less likely that you are going to impress the person. Remember that you may never get an opportunity again with the same person. So act wisely. 

❏ Never neglect your old connections. The rule of thumb here is that professional network relationships are to be constantly updated and refreshed. Choosing expansion of your network over by neglecting your existing connections may put you on backfoot later. 

❏ As mentioned earlier, it is not just about a quick interview call or a job opening. You should put a real focus on long-term benefits. 

Key takeaways

Here are the three key takeaways from professional network relationships.

❖ Keep your professional network active. Professional networking is a sustained process of continued efforts. It is not advised to forget your old connections.

❖ Never shy away from meeting professionals. You never know if such an opportunity comes back to you in the future. Always be prepared for an interesting conversation whenever you get a chance.

❖ Feed on their ego. Never attempt to dominate the conversation by talking more about yourself. Being a good listener is a primary requirement. Be very appreciative of their efforts.

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