Networking: A Critical Competency

Knowing how to develop mutually beneficial professional relationships has well-documented positive outcomes and benefits. According to researchers at Harvard and Northwestern Universities and the University of Toronto, key advantages enjoyed by networkers include:
 
  • More rapid career advancement
  •  Broader understanding of your field, company and industry
  • Increased status and authority
  • Access to critical guidance and support
  • More robust innovation
  • Greater social capital
  • Better quality work
  • Higher job satisfaction
 
Despite the strong case for networking, many people fail to do it, with women and introverts the least likely to forge these critical connections. People who avoid it often view networking as self-promotional, inauthentic or awkward. But there are ways to network that not only make it more appealing if you tend to avoid it, but that also make it more effective for all involved. These approaches can help you achieve your goals while you help others achieve theirs.
 
Focus on learning. By connecting networking to learning, you will see it as a problem-solving tool and proven way to learn about other people, resources and opportunities. Rather than pushing a personal agenda, networking goes broader and is about being connected enough within your organization, industry and profession that you stay on top of emerging trends, know where to turn for help and keep growing.
 
Start with common interests. When you focus on the mutual benefits of networking, you will be motivated to invest your time and interest in what others are doing, explore where your goals align and consider how you can provide support. Your focus will be on the synergy that will enable both of you to benefit.
 
Give as well as get. Even when you are seeking a connection with a more seasoned leader or hoping for expert advice, you still bring something to the interaction and the relationship. More senior leaders might appreciate your frontline insights, the perspective of an emerging leader, your grasp of contemporary technologies and even your enthusiasm for the field and company, as well as your gratitude. Your ability to network effectively can also help your team and company. By shining a light on colleagues or creating introductions where you see shared interests, you will expand the impact of your efforts and imbue them with an altruistic bent that is likely to make them more appealing to you and more helpful to others.
 
Jump right in
The WFF Leadership Conference is one of the best networking opportunities you can experience. Our community is exceptionally welcoming, very interested in growing their connections and shares a commitment to ongoing professional growth. Because we recognize both the value of networking, and its importance to our members, we embed opportunities to make professional connections throughout Conference and well beyond through your year-long, career-long connection to our community.
 
Research conducted with Pepperdine University found that effective networkers are proactive, make networking a habit, grow contacts into relationships over time and build networking into ongoing activities. Consider these tips for making the 2022 Limitless Inspiration Leadership Conference your launching pad for meaningful networking that will reap career-long rewards.
 
  1. Participate in all Conference offerings, including mingling during the networking breaks, Communities of Interest and receptions by simply introducing yourself to someone new.
 
  1. Approach others with a quick introduction of your name and company and then focus on them. Conference provides easy avenues for talking about your shared experience when you ask open-ended, probing questions to fuel the conversation. For example, instead of asking someone if they enjoyed the most recent speaker, consider asking what they took away from the session or what ideas they’ve gotten that they want to implement. Asking open-ended but specific questions provides substance for both you and your conversation partners to dig into.
 
  1. Build on points of connection to share experiences tackling a similar problem, make an introduction to someone else the person might want to meet or even to brainstorm together in the moment about a possible opportunity you might pursue together.
 
  1. Leave with a tangible connection. As the conversation winds down, thank the person for chatting with you, exchange contact information and reiterate how you will follow up. If you haven’t already, you can also ask for introductions to others in their circle you would like to meet. Send a LinkedIn invitation to reconnect the next week.
 
Growing your professional network is as much a critical competency for advancement as communication skills, business acumen, presentation abilities and technical competence. When you grasp its key benefits and proven techniques, you can network with confidence.

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