What are you doing to build and nurture your professional network? In an era where career advancement is rooted in connection and community, it is no longer optional to make networking a part of your weekly schedule. Even if you are in a job you love, this still holds true. At all stages of your career, in every industry, professional relationship building is critical to your ongoing growth and success.
Like everything in the work world, networking has evolved alongside social media. It is no longer an awkward tool of self-promotion, reserved for corporate types. As our personal and professional lives collide online, there are increased opportunities to engage professionally. We effectively leverage these opportunities when we network with integrity and authenticity on an ongoing and consistent basis.
I just finished reading a great new book by Alexandra Cavoulacos and Kathryn Minshew called The New Rules of Work, and the authors hit the mark with this quote about what networking is not:
“Networking is not about meeting people who can get you a job today or tomorrow. It’s not about instant gratification. And it’s not something you do only when you need something.”
Indeed. Networking in the 21st Century is about contribution, connection, and expansion. It’s not a short term solution to job loss or a quick fix for a new grad. It’s a long term investment in you and your career. It’s an ongoing process, a long game approach that produces many benefits. Here are my top 5:
1. It helps you figure out what you want to do
This is the anxiety point I hear the most from our alumni: “I don’t know what I want to do!” I feel like we should have a button for this on the website. But there’s no magical answer. You have to invest time and effort into calibrating your inner compass. Get curious, get out there, meet people and find out what they are doing. Networking is the perfect vehicle for this type of exploration.
2. It expands your vision of what’s possible for your career
Industry nights are great, but the best networking events are the ones where there are a range of industries represented. You may discover career paths you’d never before considered or even heard of.
3. It cultivates community
People hire people. They don’t hire degrees or resumes. This is the reason most roles get filled through professional relationship building, often before they ever get posted. Network regularly to develop and nurture a community of allies, mentors, potential employers, and really interesting people.
4. It enables you to become known
You never know who will soon be hiring, who is leaving a role, who might have the opportunity that is perfect for you. But if they don’t know who you are and what you are about, how can they open that door for you to walk through?
5. It is critical to your job search
This is the bottom line. If you are not networking regularly you are probably not going to be as successful in your job search as someone who is prioritizing professional community building.
All it takes is willingness, practice, and consistency. If you network once in a while, it won’t be very helpful. Make it a part of your weekly schedule. Include formal and informal opportunities. Be purposeful. Show genuine interest in others.
Do you have a great networking strategy, group, event, or tip for our alumni? Share it in the comments below.
Michele Murphy is the Alumni Career Educator at alumni UBC. For support at every stage of your career development process, visit us on alumniubc.ca/careers, follow us on Twitter @alumniUBCcareer, and connect with Michele on Linked In.
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