Networking is a helpful at every stage of your career, even as your ambitions and goals change. For some, the very word might be triggering and leave a bad taste in the mouths or feel forced and inauthentic. This shouldn't be the case! Whether or not you like the term, the goal is one that will help you in your career: to create and maintain a mutually beneficial professional relationship.
If you've already landed your dream job or are well into your career and don't think networking is necessary for you, that's not true.
Networking provides job security. Having strong relationships across your company and industry helps you keep your role. You get smarter about your business as you learn from various people about the work they do and you also get an opportunity to share the quality of work you do. The more people know about the value you bring, the more in demand you become.
Networking provides resources, Google Alerts don't always cut it. You never know who is in someone else's network, they can provide you with better company information and job opportunities. Having a network that has your best interests in mind also takes the pressure off of you to always be on the lookout. Just remember networking is a two-way street, give just as much as you get, if not more.
Networking helps you make more money. To get raises and promotions, you need relationships. Most organizations don't operate as meritocracies... You need sponsors speaking up for you when decisions about promotions are happening.
Networking helps you transition. You may decide you no longer like what you are doing and want a change. That is not uncommon. Having relationships across various industries/companies offers you the opportunity to 1) learn about what you may want to do next 2) potentially have a connection in place that understands how good of a worker you are and 3) transition leveraging your transferable skills and without necessarily having to start from the bottom.
The relationships you build when networking can have large impacts on your career. Creating those relationships are just as important as maintaining them. Remember that networking is a two-way street, seek out a relationship where you benefit from each other and constantly keep at it.
Build multiple relationships simultaneously. Be a connector. Let's say you've met several people at the same conference or event, perhaps you all even shared a conversation over a wine or coffee at the event. Put everyone on the email and suggest a time for a group lunch. Try to plan once a quarter. This will help you manage your time and you are also offering value back to your new network by facilitating the connection for all involved!
When building relationships with people in your industry who aren't local, ask and offer often. Check their social feeds (e.g. Twitter and LinkedIn) to see what they are posting and talking about and share articles, opportunities and connections that are relevant to them. Also, ask! Relationships should be mutually beneficial and people like to help. If you see they have access to something relevant to you, ask for an introduction or for them to share their resource!
Grab coffee when you are in town. Leverage business and personal travel to build your relationships. If you are coming to their town, find 30 minutes to get face time with your new connections. It goes a long way in keeping the connection strong and feeling fresh.
Network outside of "events" by:
Joining a networking organization and getting involved. That is a great way to organically meet people without much effort and allows them to see what and how you contribute. There are numerous organizations catering to diverse backgrounds in most industries, cities, and professional level (e.g. New York Women in Communications, National Association of Black Journalists, Association for Women in Science, Association of Latino Professionals for America, just to name a few). Join one and volunteer to help! This allows you to meet new people, while flexing your professional strengths.
Speak when you are in intimate spaces. Make a habit of greeting the person you are in the elevator with or at the coffee shop counter with or even in the bathroom with at work. It's ok if its not always an instant connection, but when you do it enough and see the person more than once, relationships will organically form.
No matter how you go about networking or when you begin practice these tips and tricks and let us know how it goes on here.