Photo: Andrew Van Eaton
The term “networking” pops up at almost every career fair and in every business class, and it seems to constantly remind us that we cannot land a job without a network. From experience, I can say that without my networks, I would not have been able to get where I am today. Networking is important because it pushes us to expand our professional boundaries and explore various career paths.
When we network, we are engaging with others in a professional manner in order to enhance our image and highlight who we are as professionals. Networking helps us understand how we can successfully continue in our chosen career path, and it allows us to receive guidance along the way so we can prosper. In business, for instance, it is difficult to scale up the corporate ladder without having the proper connections. If you network with the “higher-ups,” it will pay off in the future. If you are a lawyer, for example, it is highly recommended that you engage with everyone because your client database depends on word-of-mouth referrals and networking. Moreover, networking brings forth mentors, colleagues, and co-workers, and I must stress that even when networking seems useless, it is one of the strongest building blocks of your career and it’s a necessary foundation that will help you enter into the professional world.
Though intimidating at first, navigating the art of networking takes time. For those who are a bit more outgoing and extroverted, networking will be easier and it will consist of simple small talk. For people who are more reserved and introverted, networking can be a huge leap outside of their comfort zone. However, the more career fairs and social networking events you attend, the easier the process will be. It is through networking that we can grow our professional bubbles and showcase our strengths to others.
Networking allows us to meet people involved in all aspects of our respective industries. Through meaningful conversations, we can learn tips and tricks of the industry. While we network, it is important to keep in mind the goals for the conversation. Maybe you would like to develop a stronger relationship with your co-workers. Maybe you are seeking a mentor to help you move forward in your career. When networking, think about which of your responsibilities you would like to improve, as you can learn a lot by speaking with someone who has already been there and done that. The conversations we have allow us to think deeply about our careers and better navigate our industry.
We can learn about ourselves and what we want in our professional journey through networking. If you look closely at your networks and realize that many of them work in the same field, then perhaps you will want to seek a career in that industry. We tend to look for deep connections and common interests when we make friends, and that is why we fit into some friend groups better than others. For people who do not know what profession they want to pursue, or for those who are interested in exploring alternative career paths, networking is the best way to learn about various industries. There is no doubt that one of the most beneficial conversations to have with others is one about career paths, as well as the daily responsibilities of a specific job. Through networking, experienced professionals can tell you how they feel about their current job and they can give you helpful tips so you can be as successful as possible.
In many ways, networking is similar to engaging in small talk, but the difference is that networking offers the opportunity for you to give some “humble brags” about yourself to potential employers, future business leaders, and recruiters. Small talk focuses on establishing and maintaining connections in order to find common interests and goals. It is important to fully prepare yourself prior to attending networking events, and it’s crucial to keep in mind that networking affords you the space to improve and build your professional image.
Sara Kim graduated with a B.A. in Journalism and a double minor in Health Policy and Management and Asian American Studies from Ithaca College. She currently works as an Event Coordinator at a non-profit. In her free time, she enjoys working out, reading, watching movies, and cooking. Fun fact: as a foodie, she loves to try new foods and travel to new places.