When most people think about networking in a professional sense, they tend to associate it with high-powered business people.
Certainly, those who have achieved success in business or in their professional careers typically do a lot of networking. However, that doesn’t mean that networking is a practice that should be exclusive to people in such lofty positions.
The truth is that networking is important for everyone, no matter who you are or what your chosen profession is.
How Does Networking Help You?
Networking is simply the process of building professional relationships with other people in and around your chosen field of work or study. Often, these people will already be heavily engaged in the career that you choose to pursue, making them invaluable resources for honing your skills and learning new information from.
The primary goal of networking, however, is to open up new opportunities for yourself within your profession. People in different companies or who may even own different companies from the one you work out may recognize your talent and abilities and provide a pathway for you to move up within your field. At the same time, networking can even help you make personal friends with similar interests to your own.
Can Normal People Engage in Networking?
There’s a huge misconception that networking is a habit exclusive to the rich and powerful. While there’s a bit of truth to this, there’s more to it than meets the eye. As a rule, people don’t network because they’re successful. Instead, they’re successful because they developed habits like networking early on to help them achieve their goals in life. Therefore, it is actually more important to the network when you are just starting out than after you have already achieved success.
When it comes to networking, getting started is the hardest part. Since you haven’t done it in the past, you don’t already have a large group of professional acquaintances who can introduce you to new people. To begin networking, start by simply introducing yourself formally to people you run into frequently in your work.
For example, if you work at a retail store and help a single customer more than a few times in a short period of time, introduce yourself and begin getting to know that customer on a personal level. Find out what his or her needs are and do your best to fill them. In doing so, you will not only cultivate a relationship with a client, but you will also have taken your first step in networking by getting to know someone closely in a professional capacity.
As time goes on, you’ll find it easier and easier to cultivate new professional relationships. Get to know other people in your industry in your local area and begin learning what they have to teach you, always being sure to teach them something you know if you can.
You can also speed up the networking process by building your sphere of professional acquaintances online. The social media site LinkedIn is a great place to start, as you can quickly connect with many people you might never have met if you relied exclusively on face-to-face meetings. If you can find online forums or sites dedicated specifically to your profession, these are also excellent resources.
Once you have gotten started with networking, it is important to actually take advantage of the opportunities your network offers you. Going back to the earlier example of building a relationship with a retail customer, you may discover that that customer knows of a position in another company that you would be perfect for.
By using your network, however, small it may be, to find such opportunities, you can keep yourself steadily advancing into new positions while helping others to do the same. Of course, you should always remember to help your professional acquaintances when you can, as this increases your value as an element of their networks.