You’re at a party. You’re standing with your drink and small foods in your hands. You’re glancing around the room when suddenly you see someone you recognize vaguely from that other thing you both attended a few months ago. They come over to talk to you. You chat about the things you have in common. You leave the conversation and move on to something else, but that brief moment of connection cements that particular person, out of the hundred or so that were there that night, in your memory. A few weeks later, you see a news story that reminds you of the conversation you had with that person at that party. You send them a link through Facebook and ask them for their thoughts. The relationship continues from there.
If that conversation happened to be about work, then you’re networking.
Networking is a fancy term for “Making connections and building relationships with people… that happen to center around what I do for a living.” To maintain and create professional network relationships, you do the same things you would do to create or maintain any human connection. Thinking that somehow a professional network is supposed to be different is over-thinking it, and (I think) what causes a lot of paralysis and uncertainty when it comes to building one.
A tiny bit of social bravery can result in a lot of benefits for everyone involved.
My network makes me feel safe
Our careers are our livelihoods. Most of us work because we need to. 70-80% of the time, a job isn’t even published so the public can see it and apply for it. 85% of the time, open positions are filled by someone who is a part of someone’s network. Having to introduce yourself from scratch, when a company knows absolutely nothing about you, presents a much smaller chance for success in an already difficult game.
My network inspires me
Your network is full of people who do the same thing you do, or do what you want to do, or who work in your field. They are working on the same problems and are likely finding different solutions. Watching how my peers are struggling and thriving inspires me to think differently.
Most careers are not a straight line, and there are many possible directions you can go. Being exposed to the paths others have followed can help you make your own way. My network helps me see what is possible, so I can widen my horizon before narrowing it to the path I decide to take.
My network gives me mentorship
Through the Support Driven community, I participated in a mentorship program. The hardest part of beginning a mentorship is asking, and that barrier was taken away as I was matched with someone who had the skills I was wanting to learn. I had a much better understanding of where I was and where I was going after completing my 6 month mentorship.
My network gives me a sense of belonging
It’s harder to make friends as an adult. Mostly because your life is full of responsibilities that take up your time. Overlapping those responsibilities, like work, with your friendships is one way to help make them happen. Networking helps you find people who understand you because they spend 40 hours a week doing something similar. That support can make or break a career, as no one is capable of succeeding alone. We all suffer from isolation, imposter syndrome, and stress. Our networks include friends that help us make it through our challenges.
This post is a part of the Spring 2017 Support Driven Writing Challenge.