You may have seen studies and surveys—like this one posted last year on LinkedIn
—that demonstrate networking’s importance during career searches. Many and perhaps most jobs are filled by candidates whose networking efforts led them to the opportunity in one way or another. Networking is undeniably important for job seekers. But what about when you’re not actively searching?
It’s important then, too. In fact, professionals should network throughout their entire careers. It’s healthy—and professionally productive—to participate in the exchange of ideas and support of others that’s involved in networking. As you do so, I believe you’ll come to share my view (if you don’t already) that people are born to want to help each other. People genuinely want to help.
When I’m talking about networking throughout your career, I do not mean to be constantly putting out feelers for other jobs. What I mean is this: seek out interactions with people and keep an open mind as you do so. By participating in the currents of ideas that are always running through professional circles, you’ll increase your capacity to contribute to the organization where you work.
If you don’t participate, the value you bring to your organization is likely to start to slip over time. You need to bring fresh ideas, and those ideas come to you through others—whether by direct observation or by association and inspiration as you learn something new.
Networking is much more than going to events where you dread meeting strangers and making small talk. (Though you should go to such events, and when you do, go with the attitude that you might make a new friend.) In the sense of being prepared to meet people and help them, you should be networking—or being open to it—every day.
In my role, for example, I try hard to take cold calls because keeping an open mind means recognizing that the person calling might be a future hire, a future peer or someone with insights or connections I can learn from. And as I learn, I enrich what I bring to Concurrency.
“Be a contributor” is a good motto to guide your networking throughout your career. Find groups of people with similar interests—maybe it’s a user group, for example—and find ways to interact in person as well as online. Offer your talents. Mentor. Use networking as an opportunity to surround yourself with good people, both junior and senior to your own position. “Be a contributor”—share your expertise (within the bounds of confidentiality requirements, of course) and learn from others.
As you contribute, you’ll find more and more networking experiences make you part of something special that’s bigger than yourself, in which keeping an open mind and helping others leads to continued richness in your own career journey.