Many of us have heard the saying that it’s not about what you know but who you know. The importance of networking is growing in relevancy, as technology is becoming more prominent than ever. Technology allows us to build connections in a matter of seconds through a simple Google search, email, or chat message.
The term networking can be defined in a variety of ways depending on your career and industry but the core of networking remains the same. In a more formal definition, Elgar Fleisch, author of Business Networking: Shaping Collaboration Between Enterprises, defines networking as the coordination of processes within and across companies. It is the management of IT-enabled relationships between internal and external business partners. The importance of business networking grew with the integrated support of business processes and has evolved from there.
In less official terms, business networking can be seen as leveraging your connections to bring you a regular supply of business. It involves building meaningful relationships with colleagues in a strategic and focused manner.
No matter how you define it, building your network can play a critical role in one’s career progression. The common dilemma is after a long day of work, many people do not have the energy to network. A Survey developed by Robert Half, a Human Resource consulting firm, analyzed the networking habits of over 2,200 chief financial officers in corporate America, discovering the following:
The CFO’s were asked, “Which one of the following is the greatest networking mistake executives make?"
Their responses were as follows:
- 30% - Not asking for help.
- 23% - Failing to keep in touch or reaching out only when they need something.
- 19% - Failing to connect with the right people.
- 14% - Not thanking contacts when they provide help.
- 14% - Not helping others.
Many of these responses are frequent mistakes working professionals make every day. Tim Hird, Executive Director of Robert Half Management Resources added, “Don’t be afraid to ask for help, we all need guidance from time to time, and people are usually happy to offer support when they can. Business is changing so rapidly, no one has all the answers or expects others to”. This is important to keep in mind as it is impossible to know all of the constant changes in the marketplace. There should be no shame in asking colleagues for assistance.
When considering if, when, and how to reach out to your network, here are a few tips to give you the confidence to reach out in a effective manner:
- What do I want? Clearly define the support you need by providing specifics. The more information you provide, the easier it will be for your contact to assist you.
- What can I offer? Keep an eye out for ways to help your contacts such as sharing job leads or industry research. This will help you to be more confident when you are making a request on your end.
- What’s next? Networking is an ongoing process throughout life but it does not need to bring you continuous stress or be incredibly formal. There is nothing wrong with sending a quick check-in email to keep connections alive.
What are your favorite ways to network online and in-person? Let us know about your experiences!