Basics and Benefits of Networking

Business has changed, and there's no going back to the way things were. Before the advent of the Internet, business used to be done with a handshake. You would meet people while you were working or you would meet them through friends and family, or even work connections.

But today, when businesses are spread out all over the world, you can't simply wait to shake someone's hand, and you can't limit yourself to the people in your local area.

Instead, you need to make networking a part of your everyday activities.

This isn't the most comfortable skill for many people to master – networking. It takes time, it takes energy, and it requires you interact with people more than you may have thought to do in the past.

However, networking is still as crucial to the long-term health of your business as it was in the past. You need to be ready to get out there and meet new people in order to flourish as a business owner, an employee, and even as a customer.

The Basics of Networking

When you talk about networking professionally, this means any and all activities related to meeting with others in your industry. These people might be colleagues, they might be potential clients, or they might be present clients.

Networking is the process in which you meet and build relationships with others. You might network by:

  • Talking to others wherever you are – Even if you're just out and about in your daily errands, you might come upon someone who can help you in your networking goals.

  • Meeting at industry events – Industry events, i.e. trade shows, can be a great place to meet up with people who are also networking. Together, you can gather contacts and help each other out in the future.

  • Sharing social media connections – Using pages like Facebook, LinkedIn, and even Twitter can help to create strong relationships between industry leaders.

  • Speaking to others at work – While you might be someone who likes to focus on work, the more you can talk with others in your workplace, the more you will become memorable to those who might call on you in the future.

  • Reaching out to people in the local area – For smaller businesses, networking and getting local support is a great way to ensure you are being noticed and that your reputation is one that appeals to others.

Anywhere you can find someone who might benefit your company, your job, or your career, that's a place where you can network.

You begin networking by finding out where the ideal people to connect to are. Then you go to those places (i.e. public events, social media, etc.). You start a conversation with the person(s). From there, you might keep in contact with them in the future to see if you can help them, or if they can help you.

And what happens next depends on the type of connection you have and what your individual goals might be. Some connections end up looking to each other for resources or they might try to get the other hired at their company.

Or others might find networking is helpful for simply staying up to date on the latest industry trends and ideas.

Still others find that networking is a way to find new clients and to keep older clients happy.

What you get out of networking is truly what you put into it. The more energy you put in, the more results you will reap. And the good news is that you don't have to spend hours or become a completely different person in order to make networking progress.

You just need to think proactively and you need to think about your bigger goals.

The Right Skills for Networking

One of the many reasons why people don't particularly like to network is that they feel they need to be extroverted in a way that may not come naturally. While this is certainly true for those who are more introverted, it's not necessary for you to be the life of the party.

Instead, these tips and skills are helpful when you are networking:

  • Have a clear idea who you want to meet – It can be helpful to know that networking is more about quality than about quantity. To keep networking simple, try making up a description of the person who is going to benefit you most in your networking activities and goals. This way, you will only need to meet those people, and not just spread yourself out to as many people as possible.

    Interested in learning more? Why not take an online Successfully Networking Your Career course?
  • Prepare a list of questions to ask – The more prepared you can be when you're networking, the better. If you have a list of questions a person can answer, this will help you get a conversation started, and everyone likes to talk about themselves, so it will make your side of the conversation easier too. (And what you might want to keep in mind is that most people aren't all that comfortable networking, so the more work you do to make things easier, the more the other party will be happy you did.)

  • Be open to meeting new people – What you may not remember as you become anxious or uncomfortable about meeting others is that the more open you are, the easier it will be. If you focus on the idea or the goal of meeting as many new people as possible, you will begin to see this process as fun and exciting. If you're a numbers type of person, you can even create goals for yourself – and then see how you improve as you continue to meet new connections.

  • Realize every person you meet might have an opportunity for you – As strange as it might sound, thinking that each new connection you have might lead to something great is often the best motivator. When you can look at meetings and networking events as places where you can connect with someone who might be beneficial to you, you will see the value. When you see the value, it can make a chore much less of a burden than it may have seemed before.

The more you get out there and attempt networking, the more you will become comfortable with it. While it may not be your favorite thing to do, it will become something you can manage – especially with a lot of practice.

You're Not Alone…and It's Not Always About Sales

Everyone in the business world and beyond is realizing they need to reach out to others if they want to be effective in their industry. While it might seem as though you're the only person who is facing networking anxiety or challenges, you certainly are not.

Instead, think about how many people are in the same position as you are. And when you talk to them, point out that these situations can be uncomfortable and uneasy. Though they may not laugh at the ridiculousness, they might also be relieved you said something. After all, you're not alone and the more relaxed you can make these encounters, the better everyone will feel in the end.

Remember , it's not so much that you're trying to sell yourself as a good person with whom to network, but rather you're trying to connect with someone in a positive and productive way. Another way to put this is that each networking opportunity is not just for you; the other person in the conversation can also benefit from what is happening, which makes this worth your while, if not necessary for success.


Networking is the process in which you connect with others in your industry or people you want to bring into your industry or company. These connections can include prospects, clients, colleagues, or outside professionals who might have a way to support your future endeavors.
The Benefits of Networking

Even if you're not completely convinced that networking is the right strategy for you, it won't take you long to change your mind. There are a number of benefits to professional networking – some that you probably know and some that may be new to you.

Some of the benefits of networking are as follows:

You meet the right people

The most obvious reason to network is to meet the right people. Now, how you define the 'right' people will depend on the business you are in and the goals you have for that business. For some, this might mean meeting the right clients and connections for business, while others just want to get on a first-name basis with industry leaders they admire.

It's not just about connecting with the people who inspire or who might support you; rather, you will want to converse with these folks to see how they can help you learn and grow in your current field.

You can get a new job or a promotion

For many people right now, the economic ups and downs of the last few years have reminded them just how important it can be to have a strong network of connections. When you are looking for a new job or you have lost a job, that network of connections can help you get back to work.

You might reach out to the connections you have privately to let them know you're looking for a new role, and to keep you in mind. Or you might let people know publicly that you're looking for work if the unemployment was sudden.

In either case, you can turn to your network to vouch for your character and for your work skills, as they will have learned more about you during your interactions.

You can increase the number of clients you have

In positions where having a steady number of clients is necessary, networking is essential. Called pipeline management, you will want to connect with as many people as might be in your target audience, gather these connections in a pipeline (or list) and reach out to them often to see how you might be able to support them.

The more people you have in your connections, the more likely it is that you will have at least a few clients who are actively working with you. In addition, the more happy clients you have, the more they will introduce you to others who might want to work with you. This creates a sustainable business model and it will ensure you continue to see results in sales and in other measurable ways.

At the same time, if your only way to reach out to clients is via networking, it will take a bit of energy on your part. You will need to make sure you're spending a fair amount of time looking for and contacting leads, as this will ensure you are getting the best possible outcome.

You can build a new brand/promote a new or existing product

When you're thinking about launching a new brand, a new identity, or a new product, networking can help you spread these messages more effectively. Instead of simply sharing it with people you know, you can reach out to your professional network to showoff what you've been creating.

While not all of your connections may be deeply interested in what you do, they might be able to connect you with someone who might be interested. This saves you from having to post the announcements in all of the areas of the world, and it can also help you get noticed more effectively.

After all, when someone you know talks up your service, that testimonial is often far more effective than a marketing campaign. Even in a more virtual world, the real life recommendations are highly effective – and memorable.

You can change careers

The economy will continue to change over the course of the next few years, whether you want it to or not. With this in mind, you may find you want to change your career and start something new. If this sounds like you, networking can help you with this transition.

You can use networking to reach out to people who are in the target industry. You can talk to them about what you want to do and get advice about what you might want to do next. Though these connections don't have to help you, they often are more than willing to give you a little coaching.

Networking events can connect you to people who are successful in the business you wan to begin. As a result, you can talk with them and see what advice they might have to offer, or you might be able to work with them on small projects gain experience.

You're not alone in wanting to change careers, and networking can make these sorts of shifts easier and more natural.

You can build up your authority

Whenever you say something within your network, you are creating an impression on the people who are listening. Even if you don't hear a loud response, you are showing others your expertise in a certain subject or area.

The more you network and the more you showcase your expertise, the more others will begin to associate you with that topic. Over time, you will begin to establish a following, one that will come to you when they need to know about the topic.

You can easily build your authority by bringing your expertise into each conversation and contact. And when you do this, you'll also be sharing your passion, which can often speak even more loudly about your value to your connection.

You can have someone to help you out later

Though you may not want to go into networking with the idea that you will 'use' the person you connect with in the future, it's also a common goal. Most people who network are looking to network with certain people for a reason.

Instead of feeling strange about this, embrace this common idea. Talk to people and let them know why you are talking to them. Chances are good you will get a similar response from them, and you will know exactly how you can help each other.

Conversely, if you talk to someone and you let them know how they might be able to help you, and they say they can't, you can quickly move onto someone else – or you could be their resource in the future, without expecting anything in return.

You can help someone out later on

It's true – networking can be a place in which you become the benefactor for someone else. When you can think about these connections as opportunities to help others, it becomes more enjoyable. You can look to find people who can benefit from your expertise, your wisdom, or your resources.

And since the natural human response is to help anyone who may have helped us at some point, this can be a beneficial arrangement for everyone.

No matter why you might choose to network, as you might have unique reasons, realize that there are benefits you can enjoy. If you find you have troubles getting motivated to network, consider the benefits you might be able to enjoy.

While not all of these benefits will be seen quickly, and some networking efforts will take time, know that the more you reach out to others, the more others will be interested in reaching out to you.

It does take time, but professional networking has proven to be the best way to ensure your career success.


There are a number of benefits to professional networking, from driving sales and client numbers to helping others and building more effective brands or positions of authority. Professional networking can also help those who are looking for a new job or who are thinking about changing their career path.