The power of your network: Why it pays to build relationships
The saying goes that it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. As a business that firmly places relationship building at the heart of everything we do, we couldn’t agree more. Having a little black book of professional contacts that you can call upon can be your biggest secret weapon when you’re on the lookout for a new role.
From business contacts to work colleagues, networking with the right people can work wonders in terms of boosting your career. A simple chat with someone could inform you of new programme, change or project manager job opportunities, within or outside of your company, that aren’t being advertised yet. It can provide you with an employee or internal references, keeps you in tune to industry trends and increases your awareness of how your current role compares to others.
Networking might even help you find potential mentors that can assist you with your personal development and see things in yourself that you often miss. Research shows that people with mentors are 23% more likely to move up in their career. So in other words, having a strong professional network is an absolute must if you want to get ahead.
But don’t just take our word for it. Over the years, we’ve seen first-hand the significant difference that knowing the right people can make during the job-hunting process. We’ve experienced candidates being offered consecutive jobs at varying companies, all because of the strong work relationship they had developed with a previous manager.
By reconnecting candidates with previous employers and managers, our consultants have managed to secure internal references, which can strengthen their job application tenfold. We’ve even had instances where just the mention of a candidate’s name or their connection to certain company employees on LinkedIn, has been enough to secure them an interview.
And it doesn’t end there. Our candidates will often recommend people to us who they’ve worked with previously who they know are also looking for new job opportunities. Some of our clients will also suggest previous employees or contractors who they might be interested in working with again. They wouldn’t do this for people they didn’t already have a good relationship with.
Building your network
Now you know how important and beneficial building these work relationships can be, it’s time to start networking. Now, this might not necessarily be your idea of a good time. The reality is that networking can be occasionally awkward, time-consuming and downright exhausting at times. But when you do it well, it can help you land your dream job faster and give you a competitive edge as your career progresses.
So how can you start being an effective networker sooner rather than later? Here are some of our top networking tips that will help you to improve your skills in no time.
Find like-minded people
Networking with people who work within your industry or who work for the same company as you can be extremely beneficial. However, if they are the only people you’re meeting and talking to, it can also be quite limiting and won’t necessarily expose you to new viewpoints and ideas. This is why it’s essential to build a rapport, not only with people within the company you work for but also external contacts too.
To find these external contacts, you can use sites such as Eventbrite and Meetup, where you can search for workshops or events that relate to specific topics. So for instance, if you’re interested in PMO, you can find PMO related events or training sessions on these sites, which other like-minded professionals will also be interested in. So not only will you improve your skills and understanding of a relevant topic at these events, but it’s also a fantastic networking opportunity.
There’s also the option of joining professional or trade organisations that relate to your industry or the one you want to progress into. Once you become a member, you’ll get invited to national or regional meetings and conferences and be encouraged to connect with other members. This can provide you with multiple networking opportunities where you can meet people from other industries and organisations.
Ask for referrals
Asking for introductions and referrals from your colleagues is one of the easiest ways of building relationships within your industry and the organisation you work for. This can be particularly effective if your colleagues have worked in the industry for a long time and have had exposure to other departments and contractors.
Have a chat with some of the colleagues you already have a strong connection with to ask if they have any contacts whom they think it would be beneficial for you to get to know and talk to. Once they’ve given you a few suggestions, ask if they will set up some introductions where you can meet these recommended people in person. People will always be more inclined to meet if there is a friend of a friend connection already in place. Don’t forget to return this favour and give them some suggestions of people they could benefit from talking to.
Always remember to follow-up
Having one meeting or a quick conversation alone won’t make a big difference to your career if you fail to follow-up afterwards. It’s a simple yet integral part of the networking process and many professionals fail to follow it through. You aren’t expected to spend hours creating an essay style message straight after meeting someone new. But showing your appreciation is always advised because it can solidify your new relationship further.
Opt for a simple LinkedIn connection request with a short personalised message to say thanks, the following day. Alternatively, you can send a polite email. Bring up a conversation that you discussed during your meeting in your message so they know who they are talking to, particularly if you met during a busy event.
You should also consider offering your help to them in some way. Perhaps they asked you to forward an article you both discussed at the event or maybe you offered to connect them with someone. Always offer your assistance before jumping in and asking for them to do you a favour in terms of your career. Another rule of thumb is to edit your message before pressing send to ensure you’re coming across in the right way and asking relevant questions.
Building a network of professionals can be one of the best things you do in terms of your career. But only if you invest time in nurturing and maintaining it sufficiently. Our biggest piece of advice is to enjoy the experience instead of dreading it or seeing it as a chore. The more you naturally enjoy the process the more genuine relationships you will make.