In a complex and uncertain work environment, professional networking has become as important as the job itself. We join the workforce typically on completion of our education. As the pressure of daily deadlines, targets, performance incentives and paperwork bears down, it is easy to shrink into isolation. There is barely time to get your own work done, let alone form and maintain relationships with others. Yet, not doing so would be a big mistake. The art of making and maintaining workspace relationships is usually called ‘Networking’. In fact, ‘networking’ is not restricted to your own workplace, but rather extends to the entire industry or area of interest related to your professional career as well as your college and school alumni networks.
At its most basic, networking is about staying in touch, being able to talk to a person and sustain a conversation. But it is also about cultivating a relationship through sharing knowledge and information in such a way that you are valuable to the people you network with – as they are to you. It could happen within your workplace, at workshops and conferences and even in your personal life. Another way of networking that is increasingly in use, of course, is through social media, from the informal Facebook to the more formalised LinkedIn.
Networking has always been critical for career growth and development, but increasingly, it is becoming essential to staying relevant within your own field.
Updating your own knowledge
The rate of technological and legal obsolescence is becoming faster with each passing year. It is necessary to be in touch with and interact with a large number of our industry peers to stay abreast of these developments. By effective networking across the personal and social media platforms, you have an excellent opportunity to be knowledgeable about what is going on in your field without having to resort to expensive formal education. Keep in mind, of course, that workshops and seminars are also excellent places to meet your peers and further your network.
Finding a new job
In an uncertain work environment, a good network can help you find a job if you lose yours. As industries grow and contract, lay-offs are no longer a rare occurrence. Whether you are asked to leave your job or choose to do so for better prospects, it always helps to know you have access to a network of your peers who know your strengths and can help you find another job.
Getting noticed for promotions
Even without the prospect of a lay-off, we often want a job in a different company or industry. With a lot of recruitment happening laterally and literally hundreds of applicants for any job, being already known, in a positive sense, helps a lot in breaking through the clutter. Similarly, within your own company when it is a question of considering candidates for promotion, if you have a widespread positive reputation in your own company you will be favoured over your rivals.
Just doing a good job does not cut it any more
Merely meeting your targets or even exceeding it is not, unfortunately, enough. Having a good network, being presentable and friendly is given just as much importance. The parts of your performance that cannot be quantified – leadership skills, communication skills, the ability to work in a team and so on are often assessed basis your networking skills.
Ultimately, networking is a skill that has become as necessary as the technical skills needed to get ahead in a career. It is not always easy to do, but it must be done all the same, if you want to reach the highest levels in your professional life.