Networking plays an integral role in professional growth. Men and women who can nurture relationships within their fields are more likely to be in tune with what's going on in their professions, and a network of fellow professionals can help men and women advance their careers.
But networking often falls by the wayside for today's busy professionals, many of whom simply can't find the time in their hectic schedules to foster relationships with professional colleagues. But the benefits of networking are numerous, and it behooves men and women to make an effort to build and maintain strong professional networks.
· Recognize the benefits of networking. Networking not only benefits individuals but also the companies those individuals own or work for. While many people view networking as a means to one day finding a new job, networking is much more than that. When you foster a professional relationship, the other person in that relationship will be quick to think of you when they need a given service or are asked for a referral. That can benefit business owners' bottom lines, but even men and women who don't own a business can benefit, as their bosses will no doubt recognize the role they played in bringing in new business.
· Make networking a priority. Once professionals recognize that networking is about more than just building a web of contacts who can help them find their next job, they can begin to prioritize networking so it can help them in their existing jobs. Make an effort to keep in touch with current and previous clients and any other contacts made over the years. Something as simple as an email to catch up or an inquiry to see if there's anything fellow professionals need will help you stay on their minds, which can help you bring in new business or learn about new opportunities down the road. Maintaining and building a professional network does not always require a lot of work, as even seemingly small gestures can pay big dividends if men and women prioritize such efforts.
· Revisit your network from time to time. A network is only beneficial if it remains current. Keep track of the professionals in your network so you know when and where to reach them should you need to do so. A professional networking site such as LinkedIn is a great way to stay on top of what your network is up to, and such a site also is a valuable tool when you want to update your network with any new information about yourself. Revisit your network a few times each year, updating with any new information so you aren't left scrambling for email addresses or phone numbers when the time comes to get back in touch with your contacts.
· Avoid networking only when you need something. You can likely name a few of your fellow professionals who only seem to contact you when they want something. You don't want to earn a similar reputation among your own contacts, so don't forget to make periodic contact with your colleagues even when you don't need anything. A simple email to catch up and to offer some unsolicited help if any is needed can be enough to prevent you from earning a reputation as a me-first contact and put you in a positive light that can benefit you throughout your career.
Networking can easily be seen in a negative light. But professionals who network the right way will find that their efforts pay dividends for themselves, their companies and even their professional colleagues.