Developing and maintaining a strong professional network can take you much further than a job offer. While many view a job the primary goal of networking, there are plenty of other equally important reasons to maintain and grow your network; even when you aren’t in the market for a new job.
A good contact can be an invaluable resource. You never know what kind of challenges you will find yourself facing, and it’s impossible to be an expert on everything. Knowing the right person to help solve an out-of-the-box problem at work could save your company big time. Why not rely on calling up an expert you’ve never met? Someone who knows you well is more likely to take time out of their schedule to help you and is less likely to give you the runaround.
Along the same lines, there will be a point in your career where you need guidance. How should you approach negotiating salary with your employees? How do you handle letting someone go? Should you franchise your business? Having someone you trust who has gone through what you are going through can help ease a troubled mind and assist in making an educated decision.
Having a diverse network can get you out of your industry bubble. Surrounding yourself with people from other industries, backgrounds, viewpoints and business models can work wonders on the way you see the world. You’ll learn things you may have never even considered learning about if you stuck to the confines of familiarity. This makes you an asset anywhere you go and can give you a competitive advantage.
While you may have no plans on leaving your current career, life happens. Plans may change with or without your authorization. A network can be a bit of a safety net. You may know someone who knows someone who is looking to start a brand new business in something you know all about. A connection might be aware of opportunities that aren’t yet public knowledge. If you’ve already built and cultivated your network, it’s doubtful you’ll be left high and dry for long.
Now that you’ve seen a few of the benefits of a solid network, you may be ready to start making connections. Keep in mind a professional network is a lot like a garden. You can’t throw seeds into the wind and expect a full harvest. Similarly, you can’t hand out a business card to everyone you meet and call it a day. Seek out the kinds of relationships you’re looking to grow, and then start gardening. Introducing yourself is simply planting the seed. That seed will need cultivated through follow-ups and a consistent effort to further the relationship. Make an effort to be as much of an asset to them, if not more, than they are to you. This ensures they want to keep you around, too.
At the end of the day, you probably aren’t going to build contacts without getting outside of your comfort zone. Shudder at the thought of walking up and introducing yourself to someone you don’t know? You aren’t alone. Check out these networking tips from Idaho Central’s VP of Human Resources, Ben Davidson, here.