Here are 5 important reasons to invest in your network while you’re successfully employed:
1. Get more done in less time. Few, if any, jobs are standalone. Most are interconnected, requiring some degree of collaboration with others. Investing in relationships with the people you depend upon not only makes work more enjoyable, but it increases your ability to get things done. If you need the cooperation of others to achieve your goals, you’re at the mercy of those people to successfully perform your job. Without a relationship, you’ll need to hope they make your needs a priority among their other responsibilities. When you build trusted relationships with key decision makers across the organization, you can make requests, or ask for favors, and know that they will rise to the top of the priority list.
2. Uncover new career opportunities you never imagined. Networking increases your visibility across an organization and exposes you to career options that you may never have considered. Whenever possible, get involved in a cross-functional project and get to know the people on your team. I’ve done this throughout my career and, more than once, I found entirely unexpected job opportunities, which greatly advanced my career. If you’re uncertain about your executive career path and would like to explore new career options, networking outside of your own functional group is a particularly powerful way to broaden your horizons.
3. Gain new insights and perspectives. When you’ve worked in a particular executive role for a while, or you’ve worked with the same people for a long time, it’s easy to develop a limited “world view.” By engaging with executives from other backgrounds, organizations, and skill sets, you gain exposure to new ways of thinking, which can be helpful in tackling new challenges, solving new problems, and developing new strategies. Doing the same work for a while can get stale, but networking with others can get those creative juices flowing again.
4. Get the inside track. The more connected you are to others, the more “behind the scenes” information you’ll be able to access. A critical career success factor is the ability to adapt to change. If you can anticipate changes, you’ll have a distinct advantage over others. One great way to anticipate change is to have your finger on the pulse of your organization and industry. If you have strong relationships with influential people, you may have access to confidential information about upcoming organizational shifts, strategic acquisitions, leadership transitions, etc., which can help you strategically prepare in advance for key changes.
5. Find a new job. We continue to live in an unstable economy where many fall victim to downsizing. Even if you’re confident in your job security, it’s always helpful to have a strong network you can tap in the event of a sudden job loss. Waiting until you need a job to engage in networking can be uncomfortable. It’s awkward to approach someone with whom you haven’t spoken in years to ask for help. And while most people are willing to help, they may not know you well enough to offer valuable support. Taking the time to build strong relationships with people before you need them, and making the effort to help others before you need help, will result in far greater returns if you ever find yourself in the unfortunate position of having to find a new job.
Networking is certainly a time commitment. In an economy where everyone is forced to do more with less, it can feel impossible to find the time to network. The reality is, however, that you actually gain time when you network. By networking, you build a virtual team of allies that can help you do far more, in far less time, than you could ever do on your own. You also make a powerful investment in your own career, increasing your visibility and strategically positioning yourself for your next step.
Do you make the time to cultivate your network? What other benefits have you experienced as a result?