In the business world, networking is one of the most essential tools one can use to build connections and further career goals. It can be time consuming, and depending on your personality, awkward and even exhausting. But in the long run, networking can be one of the best and easiest tools to use for your personal career development and it can also be a great marketing tool for your current business. It opens the door to new relationships, makes you and your company more visible, allows you to gain insight on what is going on in the community around you, and can serve as a great resource that not even Google can provide.
Networking can come in many forms. The most common way to network is to be involved in casual contact networks. Locally, the Chamber is one of the most well-known casual contact networks. The group brings together hundreds of local professionals in a relaxed environment. Most chambers meet weekly with various events where they highlight a local business, present guest speakers, discuss important business topics or just host an informal mixer. These events give people the opportunity to meet others in the business community and create valuable and lasting personal and professional relationships.
In our community, there are several networking opportunities put on by other organizations. Crook County Foundation holds regular “What’s Brewing?” events to highlight local, regional and national issues that affect people living in Crook County. Our area is also home to service clubs, such as Kiwanis and Rotary, which are always welcoming visitors and seeking new members. Community service clubs can be a way for one to not only contribute to their own community, but to also gain professional growth and success. Being involved in these groups is one of the best ways to network, and to reward yourself and others in the process.
While face-to-face contact is the best way to network, online and social media groups are growing in strength as a new virtual resource. Facebook has groups for almost every profession where users can share experiences, advice and even documents with others. LinkedIn, a site created specifically for the business community, lets you connect not only with those you know and trust, but also connects you with members who are in your industry and have similar careers and education. The important thing to remember with online networking is to be active and engaging. It takes consistency to build rapport online, just as it does in the physical world.
It’s also a good idea to network within your own workplace. Take time to get to know your colleagues. It can be as simple as saying “hi” in the hallway. Find out what other employees and other departments do. It’s surprising what you may learn. Having interdepartmental relationships with colleagues helps with communication, collaboration and helps build a great company culture, which is an important asset in today’s workplace. You may find professional development opportunities, a new mentor and even the opportunity for career advancement.
If you check the local Prineville–Crook County Chamber of Commerce events calendar, the Central Oregonian or The Roundup, you are sure to see several gatherings and events perfect for networking. Just remember that it isn’t always what you know, but who you know that will help you succeed. Be authentic and have fun. Best case scenario, a business relationship will help you with professional success and turn into a lasting friendship as well.