Networking 101: A Beginner’s Guide

With initiative and technology, networks today can span companies, industries, and continents.

In today’s fast-paced and inter-connected world, it is generally agreed that having a “network” in one’s professional life is essential for future career moves and professional development. Universities increasingly offer courses centered on teaching networking skills, and academic advisers hand their students checklists including items such as “Create your LinkedIn profile”. Yet, despite this important emphasis on digital connections and workplace savvy, it is easy for new young professionals to find themselves sitting at their desk in the early days of their career wondering where to begin. I was one of these people.

The following guide will review the benefits of networking and highlight the various forms of networking used in today’s’ professional world, allowing you to go forward with confidence when you are ready to begin building your own network.

Benefits of Networking

Effective networks offer a multitude of benefits for new young professionals.

In order to begin building an effective network, it is important to understand the benefits of networking at a deeper level than, “Knowing people in my professional world will help my career progression.” While this underlying statement is true, a more detailed view of the benefits will help you to establish your own networking goals.

Among the many benefits of networking, below are some of the most important:

  1. Networking connects you to peers in your profession – This allows a valuable opportunity to share experiences, lessons, and knowledge of other aspects of your industry
  2. Networking connects you to managers and executives in your profession – This providing the chance to share your accomplishments and career ambitions, learn about significant changes in the business or industry, and feel the “pulse” of company culture and expectations
  3. Developed networks span businesses and industries – This can provide significant opportunities for lateral or vertical career moves with external companies or professions

Forms of Networking

Coffee breaks with coworkers are one of the many simple ways to keep networking with peers.

So you understand how networking can help you in your career. But what does networking actually look like? Who should be in your network? Let’s highlight four primary forms of networking that exist in today’s world:

Professional Mentorships

At its core, a professional mentorship is a form of networking that involves regular contact with a manager or executive more senior to your own role in a company or industry. These mentorships offer opportunities to gain with leaders in your business, learn more about company culture and career development, become “in the loop” on organizational changes, and so much more. Fortunately, it is possible to maintain these relationships through a number of different means ranging from lunches and coffee breaks to scheduled phone calls and occasional emails.

Peer Networking

Peer networking, the art of collaborating with colleagues in your company or industry, is one of the most informal forms of networking due in large part to the lack of hierarchical difference in your roles. Oftentimes, this lack of hierarchical difference also makes this a form of networking that is undervalued. Without that upward visibility or executive exposure, it is easy to underestimate the benefits of putting effort into professional relationships with your colleagues. I was among the victims of this mindset early in my career.

It was not long before I learned that the clichés of coffee breaks and drinks after work were more than just a way to blow off steam. Informal peer networking is a fantastic way to improve the collaborative environment in your workplace and learn more about the challenges and solutions that your peers are encountering and implementing.

Professional Organizations

While every industry may be different, each industry is bound to have its own professional organizations. Ultimately, it is up to you to determine the value of free or fee-based memberships, but these organizations offer a gateway to industry news and contact with members of your industry. From monthly newsletters, to LinkedIn posts, to annual conferences, you are a simple internet search away from unlocking these resources for your career growth.

Digital Networking

Digital networking continues to grow in today’s increasingly digital world, and while the cold interaction of a social media platform may feel impersonal when compared to a firm handshake, it is absolutely a necessity for one who is seeking to truly maximize the effectiveness of their network. Creating a LinkedIn profile and making connections with current and former colleagues is a fantastic way to start. Even if you do not regularly interact on these platforms, the online presence of a professional social media profile is often a key point of research for recruiters and employers.

We may publish a future guide on creating a LinkedIn profile, but for the time being you can follow this link to get started on your own.

Conclusion

Continue to build your networking skills and you will see the benefits build as well!

Networking is an essential art that every young professional must practice and perform if they are serious about their future career ambitions and aspirations. This guide to the basic benefits and styles is just the first step in building your own network. For your next steps, please see our article:

A Networking Guide in 5 Easy Steps

Have thoughts to share on your own early career networking experiences? Please share in the comments below!

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