Networking: 10 Reasons Why It Should Be Your No.1 Priority This Year
You already know that networking is one of the most important things you need to be doing to further your career. But just because it’s important, doesn’t mean you’re doing it, right? Chances are it’s competing with all the other important stuff on your to do list. But this year it’s time for a change of strategy. It’s time to make networking your No.1 priority. Here are 10 reasons why:
1. Networking helps you know more people
It’s not what you know, it’s who you know. It is not enough to keep your head down and do your job. Even if you’re doing it spectacularly well. While you are quietly ferreting away, others around you will be forming relationships with people who have the power and influence to catapult their career forward.
“The employee should realise that their professional network is one of the key assets that can boost their long-term career prospects,” says Reid Hoffman, founder of LinkedIn.
2. Networking helps people know more about you
It’s not only who you know, it’s who knows about you. Don’t expect other people to notice you by chance. It’s your job to put yourself out there and become known for what you do. That only happens when you get up from behind that enormous stack of papers and start building relationships. It means talking to others about the high profile project you’re working on and about the client who was singing your praises just last week so that everyone knows who you are and what you’ve been doing.
3. Networking gives you a Plan B
‘When you need a network, it’s too late to build it’
– Lois P. Frankl, Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office
Career progression isn’t the only reason you need a network. What happens when your company is taken over and you find yourself on the hit list for redundancies? What happens when your new boss is the tyrant from hell and has made it his or her personal mission to destroy your career? Or when the culture of your team or department becomes so toxic that the only thing you can do to save yourself is to head for the exit? At times like these having a strong network may be the only thing that saves your career.
4. Networking brings you moral support
“It takes a village to raise a child” so the saying goes, but what about to build a career? Sure you can go it alone, but that route can be lonely and treacherous and littered with diversions and distractions. When you have the moral support of others and people who are looking out for you the journey is completely different.
5. Networking will help you find a sponsor
If you don’t have a sponsor and you’re serious about a promotion or a pay rise, it’s time to get one. A sponsor is someone in a more senior position who agrees to champion your cause. It’s someone who’ll endorse you, let you piggy back on their credibility and open doors that might otherwise remain closed to you.
6. Networking will help you find a mentor
You don’t have to have a mentor, but they are useful things, and networking is how you find them. Remember when you were at school or university, there was that one teacher, that one assistant, that one tutor who really got you? Who saw your potential when you doubted if you even had any, and who encouraged you to step outside your comfort zone so you could learn and grow and reach your full potential? A mentor is that person. The person who believes in you. If you’ve never had that person in your life, it’s never too late to find one.
7. Networking will help you meet a role model
When it comes to progressing your career, role models are really helpful. Seeing or, better still, knowing someone who is living your dream is such a great motivator and can massively influence your career choices. The main reason I left my first law firm was because when I looked up to the top I couldn’t see any role model whose life I wanted. Where was the female partner who was (still) married and had kids (who she got to see)? What I didn’t know then but I know now is that I could have looked much further afield. There are people out there living your dream, even if they are not in your organisation. Networking will help you find them.
8. Networking will help you find clients
Let’s not forget we are here to work. If you want to make a mark and advance their careers you need to do more than just show up at their desk every morning. You need to start thinking like a business owner and find ways to attract clients. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that clients choose their lawyers because of the firm’s name alone. Take a look at any successful partner at your firm and you’ll realise that clients go to him or her because of their relationship, a relationship that is built and nurtured overtime through regular networking. Here’s LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman again:
“The employee ought to tap their own individual network to advance their employer’s business because who they know…can be just as valuable as what they know”.
9. Networking will help you work with people you like
We all want to work with those we know, like and trust. Whether it’s the partner or colleague you’re working with, or the client you are working for, work is so much easier when there is trust, respect and a human connection. We’ve all been there – working for someone we don’t like or we think doesn’t like us. While you don’t always have a choice about who you work with, you can influence who knows likes and trusts you, and that’s going to make them interested in working with you.
10. Networking will help you babyproof your career
The opportunity to work flexibly is great, isn’t it? Especially if you are an existing or future parent? Well it would be if you had the courage to ask for it, and if you had a reasonable chance of a ‘yes’ when you do. The problem with flexible working, in particular that which involves working from home, is it requires a whole level of trust and letting go of control that many partners and law firms as a whole just aren’t ready to give. There is this unhelpful presumption that if you want to work flexibly you are no longer committed to your career or you just want to slack off. One of the ways of shaking this assumption is through building trust, not only through your actions (your track record matters, of course) but through your relationships. And if you know you want children one day, however far in the future, you need to start building those relationships now.
“We all need the support that good relationships bring. When you are a working mother you’ll need people in your life who are going to push you forward, open doors, champion your success and catch you when you fall.”
– Caroline Flanagan, BabyProof Your Career: The Secret to Balancing Work and Family So You Can Have It All
When it comes to career progression and preparing for a day when you might one day be managing career and family, the relationships you build with colleagues, seniors, clients and others in your industry might just be your most important asset. Every day that goes by when you are not building relationships is a wasted opportunity. Isn’t it time you put networking at the top of your list?