Whether you are in the middle of a career change, searching for a job, attempting to transition into the Federal Sector, or whether you have been in your place of employment for a very long time, professional networking can be a valuable resource for you no matter what stage you find yourself in your career.
What exactly does it mean to “network?” Networking is the process by which you expand your knowledge base and professional capability by leveraging relationships with other professionals. (1) Networking provides a forum not only for career development, but career advancement.
True networking comes from connecting with other professionals, building, and then maintaining those relationships built upon trust and good rapport; giving value in the relationship as much as receiving. From a simpler perspective, a network of like-minded professionals can provide you with an easy access system of experience, knowledge, and exposure available at your fingertips.
How can I successfully build my professional network? Consider the following tips, as suggested by the Indeed editorial team: (2)
· Look for the right people- Reach out to people who can provide you with a specific benefit that you need. As an example, if you are seeking work on Federal Construction projects, reach out to individuals or companies that perform this type of work. Once connected, don’t be afraid to ask questions as to how you can better utilize your skills toward a transition.
· Be proactive- Cultivate and maintain your relationships. If you haven’t spoken to a contact for many years, there may be hesitancy assisting you should a need arise.
· Know how to give and take- Like previously stated, it is essential to give as much as you take when building a professional relationship. We all have those friends or contacts that are friends of convenience. Let’s not be that person.
· Use your resources- With the increase in technology, sites like LinkedIn, Twitter and any number of other social media platforms provide an endless resource for valuable networking. These platforms can be instrumental when it comes to connecting with the right people if you are looking to land that high-profile job. While these platforms have become a valuable source for information and contacts and the go-to method of reaching out to professional contacts, sometimes picking up the telephone and talking to or meeting up with those in your network may hold even more value.
· Seek out networking events- Perhaps the most valuable chance of creating a successful network can come from socializing in person. Whether that comes from attending professional development conferences, social events, attending professional groups or any number of other social opportunities, building a face-to-face relationship is far easier to do than building a relationship based upon online interaction.
What value can networking provide me? Consider several benefits that networking can provide: (3)
1) Provides an avenue to exchange ideas- Success in a career is largely attributed to the pool of information or ideas that you have garnered over the past. Networking can accelerate this growth through mutual exchange.
2) Provides an avenue for new opportunities- As you build your professional network and provide value to your connections, opportunities will present themselves over time. These opportunities may include connecting with important individuals, introducing you to potential clientele, or opportunities for career growth and change.
3) Provides support from high-profile individuals- Good networking with high-profile individuals from the same career path helps to serve as support in the event that hurdles in career development arise. They can help you to manage challenges effectively by providing advice or linking you to the right contact.
4) Improves your creative intellect- Intellectual ability is significantly improved upon from contacts that we have built over time. Likeminded professionals that regularly share ideas are more apt to develop their intellect to foster growth in their career path.
5) Provides an extra resource library- Building a successful network can provide you with an endless resource of information at your fingertips. This may include keeping up to date on regulatory changes, providing first-hand experience addressing workplace challenges, or providing a resource relating to career-specific trends and best practices. Your network resource has the potential to grant you access to tap into them whenever the need arises.
6) Develops long-lasting relationships- If networking is a mutual relationship, then having the right networking channel can help build your career. Providing value-added, long-lasting relations provides you with endless career opportunities for growth, all of which can be accelerated through diligently building upon and maintaining the relationships that are developed.
Cory J. Grimmer, CSP, CHST
1) Grant, Rich, “The Value of Professional Networking for Career Success.” Southern New Hampshire University Academics, May 19, 2016, https://www.snhu.edu/about-us/newsroom/2016/05/value-of-professional-networking.
2) Indeed Editorial Team, “The Importance of Networking in Business.” Indeed Career Guide, December 10, 2020, https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/career-development/networking-in-business.
3) Cole, Bianca Miller, “10 Reasons Why Networking is Essential for Your Career.” Forbes Women, https://www.forbes.com/sites/biancamillercole/2019/03/20/why-networking-should-be-at-the-core-of-your-career/?sh=a39d9661300b.