If you feel like your career momentum has slowed down or you don't feel inspired or jazzed over your industry anymore, there might be an easy fix: Networking. There are many reasons why you should force yourself to network, but often times people cringe away from the idea. It seems like a stale way to meet people, where you're trapped in a corporate event with logo-ed napkins and are hawking your business cards towards anyone who dared to make eye contact. It also feels a tad un-genuine — if everyone is there to find an opportunity, who is actually going to take the time to give one away?
But that's such an old fashioned way of thinking about it! Networking can happen on social media, via blogs, emails, coffee meetups, and yes, networking events, but the name of the game is to help each other. And that help provides you with a major leg-up in your career, as well as interesting and much-needed exposure in your field. After all, it's never easier to accomplish something on your own — a well timed helping hand or hint can literally change everything. Below are 11 reasons why you should force yourself to network. The benefits are tenfold.
1. It'll Build You A Support System
While networking might sometimes have a rep for being un-genuine and card-slinging, it actually serves a very important purpose: People supporting other people in their careers. Because of that, give your stuffy definition a makeover. Sallee Poinsette-Nash, Business and Brand Troubleshooter, explains in an email with Bustle, "Developing a strong, loyal network is essential in every area of your life and work is no exception. Urgh, the word networking conjures up mental imagery of crazily carpeted function rooms, cheap wine and a room full of awkward silences so I prefer not to think of it as networking but instead, as building networks." You're putting yourself out there to build a tribe — you're trying to collect a group of motivated, hard-working people that will not only help you, but will let you contribute back. Everyone needs that kind of camaraderie, so don't jip yourself.
2. It Helps You Build Your Career
Maybe you hate networking because you're thinking about it all wrong. Instead of seeing it as this awkward event you have to go to and nibble on finger foods at, re-frame it in a way that would make you excited (or at the very least, motivated,) to go to it. Amanda Boleyn, host of a Forbes "12 Best Podcasts for Entrepreneurs," called She Did It Her Way, shares in an email with Bustle, "First reframe it so you don't feel like you're forcing yourself to network when maybe you don't want to. And not everyone likes to show up to a large crowd and meet others for the sake of meeting others, that is okay. But if you're finding yourself dreading going to an event because you don't want to network, then find another reason WHY you would want to go. Maybe for your business, maybe you want to work on networking skills." If you give yourself a purpose and a reason as to why it'll benefit you, you'll begin to see it as worthwhile.
3. It Gives You A Chance To Work On Your Skills
If you've been to a couple of networking events but haven't seen much of a result from attending, then that might be on you. Networking is important when it comes to growing in your career and finding opportunities, so make sure you don't just swan into an event. Have a game plan ready! Boleyn suggests, "Make a game out of it. Challenge yourself to introduce yourself to five people." This way you're actively looking for connections and working on your skills, not just aimlessly hanging out by the appetizers.
4. It'll Help Teach You To Be Authentic
People like to help others that are authentic and just as ready to help them as they are to receive help. Because of that, engaging in networking helps you stay grounded and genuine. Poinsette-Nash explains, "Networks are both on and offline, so you need to be authentic — this is critical. Connecting with people online before taking those relationships forward offline is how I have successfully grown and strengthened my own network. The focus must always be on earning trust, you should constantly work to build even stronger relationships with the people who are already in your network." If you focus on handing out as many opportunities and helping hands as you hope to receive, you'll strengthen your career in more ways than one.
5. It'll Help You Get Closer To Your Dreams
It might sound cheesy, but the more people you know, the closer you really become to achieving those dreams. Poinsette-Nash points out, "Today, there are more ways than ever before to connect. Those chance encounters that have changed the course of our journey, those opportunities that have dropped into our laps, those recommendations which have caused us to be in the right place at the right time... well, they all come from human connection." When you increase your personal connections, you boost your chances of creating something truly spectacular.
6. It Forces You To Learn
If you put in the regular daily grind, chances are you aren't coming home and diving into more work and research. No one wants to be on the clock 24/7, but networking offers you a chance to continue to learn without necessarily clocking in hours in front of a desk. Michael Goldberg at Huffington Post suggested, "We’re always learning! Learning about a product, service, industry, profession, market segment, trend, whatever. Where do you need to go, what do you need to say, and with whom do you need to meet to learn what you need to learn? Contact your network and find out!" By constantly having an open dialogue with a network either online or in person, you get to stay on top of information and trends, and better strengthen your business or work.
7. It'll Help You Develop Your Professional Tone
Figuring out your professional persona isn't as easy as snapping your fingers — you need to decide how friendly, professional, informal, creative, traditional, etc. you want to be. And while that takes some trial and error, networking is a great way to find a blue print for what you like. Why? Because you'll come across many different people, and see what strikes you as awesome and what makes you feel unimpressed. Career writer Glenn Llopis at Forbes advised, "Think of networking as a focus group. Be aware of what works best for you and what doesn’t. Learn how to improve by observing those around you."
8. It's A Great Way To Solve A Problem
If you're stuck over a hiccup, need some mentoring, or would love a second-opinion or a sounding board, a network would be able to help you in that situation. Goldberg shared, "If you have a very specific problem you may be able to network your way to answers." Reach out to those in your industry and see what they did in your situation, or see if they could share their experiences and lead you down the right path. Sure you could probably figure it out on your own, but why wouldn't you want the help of industry leaders and players shining a light?
9. It'll Encourage You To Give Back
If you never go out and meet your network, then chances are you won't think of ways you can give back to your industry and peers. But if you meet professionals and make friends, you'll feel like you're part of something and will want to put yourself out there and participate in a bigger way. Llopis offered, "Gather intelligence about yourself and others. Think of yourself as part of a think-tank. Be diligent and take note of what you are contributing and how you can improve." You'll be apart of a team, others will be aware of you and your talents, and you'll want to look for new ways to share, create, and become better known.
10. It Helps You Perfect Your Elevator Pitch
You might have a firm understanding of what you do and what your field is, but sometimes your niche can be a little foggy. Use networking as a way to suss out and strengthen what your main focus is and what sets you apart from those that also share your field. Llopis recommended, "Networking is a discovery platform and a great way to give your personal brand more exposure. Always be prepared to unleash your identity so that others will remember you." You can try out saying a variety of different things, and see which one feels the most true and accurate. It's a great way to try on different shades.
11. It'll Help You Be Accountable
If you want to keep your connections and pull opportunities out of them, that will solely be up to you. Because of that, networking helps you become more accountable, which is a fabulous trait to strengthen. Llopis explained, "Each conversation is an opportunity and only you can gauge it. Think of yourself as a project manager responsible for identifying the next steps, who is responsible for what, and defining the outcomes and desired results. Being accountable will help you to sustain the momentum that you have built up in the first six steps." You'll constantly be following up with people and asking for projects or chances, which will get you into the habit of trusting yourself to make things happen.
In the end, networking isn't just card-slinging — it offers you a wealth of benefits.