6 Reasons Why Professional Networking is Important
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My inbox used to be full of invites to webinars, breakfast seminars and afternoon presentations, and that’s just from vendors. Nowadays, a lot of the events are virtual, which makes it a little harder to do networking, but not impossible.
Even so, once I add in the professional development events from the project management groups I belong to, I could be attending something every week.
Aside from the free drinks, what are the reasons why networking is important for your career? In this article I’ll explain 6 reasons why you want to take advantage of the benefits of networking.
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Networking is an essential part of your job, whether you know it (or like it) or not.
Will Kintish expands on this in his book Business Networking – The Survival Guide: How to make networking less about stress and more about success.
He explains 6 reasons behind the importance of networking and why you should invest time and effort into getting it right.
Here they are, with my thoughts alongside.
1. Networking is about spotting opportunities
Networking is not sales. Put that thought out of your head. In fact, it’s the opposite. Networking is about spotting opportunities, so you want to spend time asking questions about the person you are talking to and their business, to try to see whether they have any problems that you can help with.
In fact, in a prime example of networking gone wrong I was on the receiving end of a ‘sell’. It was at a PMI conference and I was chatting to Clark A. Campbell, author of The One Page Project Manager. Another man came over. He talked about himself and his work for what felt like a long time.
When he excused himself Clark said to me, “That was a missed opportunity for him.” He had missed the opportunity to talk to Clark – an expert on project communication and reporting, and me – an expert on collaboration tools for project managers and although he knew who we were and what we had done he asked us nothing beyond that. He didn’t get anything out of the conversation (and neither did we).
That’s not networking, that’s just filling up time with meaningless chatter. I remember the incident for how bad it was, but I have no clue today who that man was. So much for making an impression.
2. Networking builds relationships
And there is nothing project managers need more than good relationships with others at work. “Spending time on building a relationship could deliver results in the future,” Kintish writes.
If you have been project managing for a while you’ll know how important it is to cultivate relationships with stakeholders past and present, and my own research for my book, Customer-Centric Project Management, shows that good working relationships improves the perception of project success as well.
3. Networking is expected
This is my favorite reason. “Even if your role isn’t explicitly to bring in new business or to market the company,” Kintish writes, “you are probably expected, as most people are, to meet new people and understand the market place as part of your role.”
This is definitely the case for project managers. You need to quickly pick up information about the new project and how do you do this? Through talking to people. That’s networking! Building your internal network is just as important as focusing on creating new contacts outside of your workplace.
4. Networking is Good For Your Projects
Kintish says that it’s a way to learn more about the business, understand the industry better and hear about the challenges faced by your contacts.
If you’re managing project stakeholders, this is important as you have to deal with the ‘what’s in it for me’ approach that many of them will take.
The more you understand about their areas of the business, the easier it will be for you to demonstrate your business acumen and talk to them in language they can understand.
5. Networking Can Further Your Career
Many, many jobs aren’t advertised, so if you want to be in with a chance of getting that internal promotion or taking a role outside your company as a step up, you have to network to find out about them.
People recommend people they like, so while you might not have met the person you will be working for in the future you might have met one of their contacts who could put you forward for that dream job.
6. Networking is a Virtuous Circle
“If done right, meeting more people leads to more business and career opportunities, which leads to meeting more people and more business, and so on,” Kintish writes.
It might not feel like it now, but you never know what doors are going to open in the future, so it’s worth operating as if that next useful contact is round the corner. They probably are.
There are a lot of reasons why networking is important, but you have to balance attending events, both in-person and virtual, with fitting in everything else in your life.
Networking doesn’t have to take up a lot of time if you approach it with care, and you consider what you are doing strategically.
My short ebook on professional networking will help you focus most of your networking efforts where you think you’ll get the most payback.
Generally for project managers not looking to change jobs, that’s going to be on building your internal network within your company.
Building little networking moments into your day and prioritizing your internal network can be really beneficial for stakeholder engagement and your career longer term.
A version of this article first appeared in 2015.
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Still fairly new at networking, I always thought of it as selling. However, I’m learning now that is not the case. With me, I feel it has to do with confidence, sometimes its intimidating to just walk up and network.
It can feel like that, but lots of other people are feeling the same way! Bear that in mind the next time you wonder whether you should approach someone, as they could well be grateful that you took the trouble to go first.
It is very worth noting fact discussed and more valuable information given
It look interesting, gonna try it.
Thank for the great article. I have recently been reprioritizing my network of connections and trying to build and strengthen those relationships. It can be difficult to reach out, but I do find that the network I have built within my company has led to my professional success. I’ve let my external network slide, but am working on building relationships with industry professionals to help my career advance.
You’ve definitely provoked some interesting thoughts from a PM perspective!
Thanks, Tiffany! Networking is hard work – harder than I first thought. At least, if you want to do it well and make lasting connections. It happens naturally over time, the effort is in keeping the relationships going by finding small ways to stay in touch and that’s a lot harder to do outside your own business. Good luck with your external networking efforts! Maybe that could be your professional goal for 2017?
I couldnt agree more. Our network is our tribe and it’s how your grow yourself faster — especially if you’re part of a strong wolf-pack. great article.
As a result of my recent job search and hire, I have became a real fan of networking. Also, I have started a blog on how to get a job and one of my articles is called “The Importance of Networking” http://www.amoresuccessfulyou.com/getting-the-job/the-importance-of-networking/
I think that #2 and #4 are the most related things that we discuss in our posts. I believe that networking is more than just meeting someone to say that you have met them. It is more a self growth exercise that enables you to gain an understanding of the industry.
Let me know what you think and have a nice day!
Thanks for sharing your site, Erik. It sounds like networking has really worked for you in your job hunting – which is proof that it works!
I gonna try it.
Hi Elizabeth, Good article. Many PMs and other professionals do not realize the importance of netwroking. Networking can be and should be done within the organiztion also.
Thanks, Praveen. Networking in the organisation is probably more important for day-to-day work than networking outside, as you will benefit from good relationships with those colleagues to help on your projects.
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