If you want to succeed in your career, you should be expanding your network. Here’s why networking is important and one of the best ways to get ahead.
Networking is an integral element of career success. It’s said that anywhere from 70%-85% of jobs are landed through networking. Are these numbers accurate? Who knows. But we do know that networking can make or break your career and job search prospects.
If you’re not networking, you should be.
What does it actually mean to get a job through networking? Any number of things. Using your network to land a job doesn’t have to mean that you hear about the job directly through a friend or acquaintance who is directly connected to it and/or put your name forward. It can mean that you hear about a job through a connection who saw it posted online, or that after you apply for a job, you reach out to someone you already know at the company, or that you have a friend or colleague who knows the hiring manager and can put in a good word for you.
Having a large network is demonstrably advantageous for your job search and career success. Research has found that:
- Networking is related to concurrent salary and to the growth rate of salary over time. (Effects of Networking on Career Success: A Longitudinal Study)
- The more socially connected employees at IBM were, the better they performed. (Barking Up The Wrong Tree)
- The difference was quantifiable. On average, every email contact of an IBM employee was worth an added $948 in revenue for the company. (Barking Up The Wrong Tree)
- Networking is crucial to achieving and demonstrating professional competence and to career advancement. (Professionals, Networking and the Networked Professional)
- Out of the 1780 people surveyed in the Philadelphia area, 56% of those who weren’t self-employed got their current job with significant help from another person. (8000 Hours)
The more people you know, the more visible you are. If you are well-connected online, your social media posts will garner more likes and reactions and be visible to more people. It also offers you the opportunity to have more conversations, bounce your ideas off more people, and hear more opinions, which improves our knowledge and critical thinking skills.
LinkedIn would be considered the world’s best professional networking site where you can do all of these things. To engage with your network and build your audience, have a look at our suggestions for what content to post on LinkedIn.
Weak ties can be more useful than strong ones
Your network doesn’t have to include just close contacts, good friends, and family. In fact, it’s the people you know less well who may prove to be the most useful.
In 1973, Stanford sociology professor Mark Granovetter published a now-famous paper called The Strength of Weak Ties.
Granovetter found that weak-tie acquaintances were often more important than closer friends because weak ties give us access to social networks we don’t otherwise belong to. Eric Barker writes in his book Barking up the Wrong Tree, “Many of the people Granovetter studied had learned about new job opportunities through weak ties, rather than from close friends, which makes sense because we talk to our closest friends all the time, or work alongside them or read the same blogs. By the time they have heard about a new opportunity, we probably know about it, while weak ties are more likely to have new information. “
Granovetter also found that jobs found through weak ties tend to come with higher compensation and satisfaction.
The takeaway from this is simple: connect with lots of people and you will have access to more information and opportunities. It’s also important to maintain these ties and not only reach out to people when you want something from them, like a referral or a reference. To truly expand your personal network, in-person networking events are definitely the way to go. However, if you’re not used to it or uncomfortable, it can be hard to start conversations with complete strangers. Check out our list of 10 simple opening lines you can use to start conversations with strangers.
If in-person networking is not your thing. That’s okay! There are plenty of ways to expand your market if you consider yourself more of an introvert. Just remember that it’s important to be yourself and to nurture your connections as much as you can.
Make sure your network is comprised of people who would recommend you
A note on the type of people you want to have in your network: make sure that they are your advocates and that they actually like you. This is something noted by the authors of the paper Professional Networking and Its Impact on Career Advancement: A Study of Practices, Systems and Opinions of High‐Earning, Elite Professionals.
They state: “It is our view – and the view of the highest‐earning professionals in our study – that the single most critical factor in determining the value of your network is the breadth of connections with the right people [italics, mine] —people willing to recommend. If individuals within your network are not willing to recommend you, they are of no, and possibly even negative, value to your network. If individuals within your network—some of whom you may have developed deep relationships with—are not willing to recommend you and may even speak negatively about you, they in fact detract from the value of your network.”
You can never be sure that someone is not going to stab you in the back but you can do your best to mitigate this risk by being nice to everyone. Never give anyone reason to speak against you and hopefully, they’ll only say good things.
Ready to grow your network? Read these 10 tips on how to expand your network to get started.