The ability to network in the business environment is a skill which can significantly aid your career development.
Networking put simply, is meeting informally with others who have common interests which could potentially benefit your business or personal needs.
Networking is a key soft skill. Many individuals have attributed their personal and business success on their ability to network. Networking and the development of good contacts can generate a variety of opportunities. Whether you are actively looking for a new position or researching markets or companies you are interested in working for, networking can be the key to those job opportunities that never get advertised. It can also be used to secure new business and find out the latest industry manoeuvres and top level thinking making it a desirable skill to have.
One approach is to make contact with present and past colleagues, former managers, fellow students and other acquaintances in your relevant sector or profession. This can help you to gain advice on your areas of interest and discuss the state of the industry and profession. You will be able to spot the opportunities that never get advertised. It can also be used to secure new business and find out the latest industry events and interest groups directly or via your contacts.
Many of today's senior managers and directors spend time attending networking events and are members of clubs and associations in order to network with fellow peers and potential prospects.
When networking in a business environment it is important to:
Even if you have not had much business experience, you will be surprised by how much of a personal network you already have. Make sure you have a specific reason before making contact with former acquaintances and be specific as to why you are writing, emailing or calling.
Create a database in which you can capture contacts details, company information and interest areas. You can use this system to note any follow-up actions that you or your contacts agree upon and also to develop and nurture your network. You can also cross-reference those that you have met at conferences, local network meetings or those who might specifically help you in your career to enable you to manage these contacts. You will be building a valuable network that could be useful to your other contacts. So remember to help others whenever you can.
Networking can be an enjoyable activity even though every contact may not be productive. Some people find it more difficult than others. It can be tough to move easily amongst strangers, but like many things it does become easier once you have tried it a few times. Remember to be a good listener and not a loud talker, it is often through listening to others that we area able to discover what we need to know and who is in the best position to assist us.