Think networking is just for the boozers and schmoozers? Think again. Check out our top four reasons why you need to start networking – and tips on how to do it.
1. It opens up job opportunities
It’s a statistic everyone’s heard: over 70% of jobs are filled through personal contacts. Advertising positions publicly is expensive, not to mention time consuming – an avalanche of irrelevant CVs in your inbox is what most recruiters face on a daily basis. As a result, companies would much rather promote current employees, or friends of friends with good references, than source new talent.
Think about it. When you pick a midday snack, what are you going to go for: the new, untested choc on the block, or the tried-and-tested Mars bar? People like to know what they’re getting, especially when it costs them a yearly salary. That’s why the hidden job market exists.
If you’ve contacts at a company and people know your name, your name is much more likely to get passed on to bosses or colleagues. If you know nobody, it won’t. Simple as.
2. You can do it – yes, you
Networking is like riding a Segway; everyone can do it, however stupid they may feel. A common misconception is that only extroverted people can make those connections. This is simply not true. Networking is a skill and, like all skills, it can be learned.
Go to events. If you’re shy, concentrate on the basics: smile, ask questions and listen. Remembering and using first names is an easy way to endear yourself to people, while sending a follow-up email is something everyone can manage. Being generous with your time and energy is a simple way of establishing positive connections, and doesn’t take a genius to accomplish.
If you feel like a minority in your field – whether due to gender, race, sex, disability or sexual orientation – networking can help you overcome that boundary. By nature, we connect with people who share values and traits with ourselves. Networking, as a result, can help you accustom to your industry in a more meaningful way.
Finally, networking doesn’t have a lower age limit. You can begin making connections at any stage of your career – even before it’s started. University students in their final year should be working on their contact book already, while new entrants to the workplace are expected to get out there as soon as possible. It’s never too early to dip your toe in the water.
3. You’ll be in the minority – and that makes you special
Okay, we get it; nobody likes socialising on a weeknight, especially with a bunch of strangers. A ComRes poll commissioned by the British library showed that half of British adults surveyed felt uncomfortable while networking. Of those who did bother, 51% were anxious about not knowing anyone, and only 23% researched others attending the event. So we not only hate it – we’re bad at it, too.
That’s exactly why you should be out there. If only 38% of British adults have ever attended a networking event, as surveys show, then you are placing yourself in the minority merely by turning up. You are marking yourself out from the crowd as being serious about your career and willing to undergo uncomfortable situations to benefit it.
4. It is pure self-improvement on every level
People who learn how to work a room earn much more than a highly transferable professional skill. They make friends more easily, create useful private connections and are more relaxed in social settings. Add to that an enlarged advice and support circle, and a better understanding of industry movements, and you have an enhanced personal as well as professional life.
Not only that, but you can expect to earn more money than your less enterprising colleagues. According to a study by the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, “networking is related not only to concurrent salary and career satisfaction but to salary growth over time.”
Finally, your network of contacts will benefit your career performance in the long run. Going bankrupt? Talk to someone who’s been there and bounced back. Feeling lost in a new role? Talk to your predecessor. Need a shoulder to cry on? Actually, probably best to stick with your girlfriend there…
Et voila. If the above four tips don’t convince you to get on up with the movers and shakers, I don’t know what will. Wanna make it in the big city? It’s time to network.
Susanna writes for Inspiring Interns, a graduate recruitment firm which specialises in sourcing candidates for internship and giving out graduate careers advice. To hire graduates or browse graduate jobs London, visit our website.