Where are you at with networking?

The term networking carries negative connotations for some people. They think of it as insincere and slick, as contrary to their personal communication style or as irrelevant. Of course, any communication style that makes you uncomfortable is also likely to erode your effectiveness.

Thankfully, networking need not conform to the above perceptions, which owe more to movies and myth than to the real, professional, working world.

The reality is that effective networking is one of the core understandings, disciplines and activities every job or career changer ought to take part in. Even for solo workers like some entrepreneurs, writers, artists and scientists, networking remains one of the single-most effective ingredients in career development.

People need people

People play a part in every career. They are our colleagues, mentors and peers. More than that, they perform a myriad of essential and unanticipated career development functions, by being door openers, explainers, introducers, promoters, encouragers, linkers, correctors, protectors and so on.

We will never optimally leverage our networks of relationships if we neither value nor nurture them. You may think of your network as being like a garden. Plant. Water. Fertilise. Remove the weeds. Water and loosen the soil. Eventually it produces fruit with seeds for further growth.

Another reason networking is so critical to career success is that many, some would say most, job opportunities exist in the so-called hidden market: Professionals Australia claims "70% of job seekers source their new role through networking." The over-arching principle of importance about the hidden job market, is this: every employer wants to have the best person they can to fill an available position. In very many cases the apparently best person is also an easier person to hire. That is, they are someone the employer already knows or knows about — and therefore trusts a little more.

Networks are where employers look first

How do employers know or know about these potential employees? Mostly through their own networks. Such hires present a lower cost, effort and risk than hiring people who are complete unknowns.

Employers neither want nor need to advertise for positions they can fill with people they already know or know about.

It takes being part of some kind of network to be known by others in that network.