by: Kelly Fliller
When I was in college, I had to take a networking class as part of my business degree. It was a new topic back then and to be honest, I hated it. I didn’t understand why I needed the class or how it would apply to my career. I had the “I’m never going to use this” mentality but quickly realized I could not have been more wrong. Networking has been one of the biggest tools I’ve used in my career and has brought me to where I am today. Every conversation, every relationship, every simple “hello” in my business world has had an impact on my direction.
Whether you are a student, own a business, work for a non-profit or are just looking to connect with people in your industry, networking is extremely beneficial. Here are four reasons why you should be networking:
- Learn from others – One of my favorite things to learn from someone is why they chose their specific career path. It took me a long time to figure out what I wanted to do and I got to where I am today because of the relationships I’ve built along the way (and a lot of hard work). Networking is your opportunity to learn as much as you can about another person, their industry, their business, their passions. Connecting with others and hearing their stories always reignites my excitement for my work and motivates me to continue to look for ways to improve. It’s a great way to get new ideas, learn new business techniques and keep up with the latest industry trends.
- Gain confidence – Finding yourself in a large room full of people you don’t know can be intimidating. Keep in mind that when you are at a networking event, fundraiser or any other kind of business event, everyone is there to meet and talk with others. Go up to someone and say hello; that’s all it takes to strike up a meaningful conversation. I always find that after a networking event, I have added confidence and energy to tackle the next big project, put a new idea into action, or make the phone call to introduce myself to someone I’ve been wanting to meet.
- Find/Be a mentor – We all run into obstacles in life and our career-life is no different. Talking to someone who has faced the same challenges can add some fresh perspectives to your idea bank. I’ve talked to marketing professionals in completely different industries and gained useful knowledge I could take back to the marketing and communications part of my world. Getting other views of a similar situation can really help you think creatively. It feels even better when you’re the one who helps someone else with a solution to a problem.
- Build relationships – Some of the personal friends I have today I met at networking events. They have become my advisory board with career questions and because they know me both professionally and personally, I trust them to give me accurate advice. In today’s world, most of our communication is done through some sort of technological device. It’s so important to have that personal contact versus through a computer screen. David Salkin, Executive Director of the Monmouth Regional Chamber of Commerce said, “We live in a world of social media and constant background noise from a dozen sources, and yet nothing can take the place of real interpersonal communication and face to face contact. While LinkedIn, Facebook and other social media platforms each have their place in trying to make the world smaller and network to larger audiences, the experience of belonging to a Chamber of Commerce, where you actually meet hundreds of other business professionals in person, in invaluable. The Monmouth Regional Chamber of Commerce is about strengthening business and community through shared innovation, information and planning for the future.”
These are just a few of the benefits of networking. Building valuable relationships is imperative to both your career and personal life. And, networking is not just important for the individual, but for businesses, organizations and the economy as a whole. Larry Krompier, Senior Vice President of Member Services of the NJ Chamber of Commerce said, “I cannot stress enough the importance of networking when considering the success of any business or organization. Groups such as the NJ Chamber of Commerce are the conduits that facilitate networking and those relationships that help businesses grow. Years ago business was built on relationships and it seemed to have gone away during the heyday of the strong NJ and national economies during the 90’s and early 2000’s. As our economy slowed, people again began to realize the important role of networking and fostering those relationships that build trust, our businesses and our economy. I believe networking is here to stay permanently, embrace it and us it to your advantage.”
Now you know the whys of networking. Stay tuned for the hows. More to come on this topic with plenty of tips on how to make the most out of networking organizations and events.