Networking is one of the best ways to make important connections that can help take your career to the next level. And while face-to-face communication is the most effective way to build and grow professional relationships, meeting in person isn’t always possible.
Maybe the recent pandemic has put a stop to your networking activities, or maybe you’re connecting with someone long distance. Either way, there are still ways to foster those relationships.
What is networking?
Networking is all about connections — It’s the process of building personal and professional relationships that can help you in your career. Networking usually involves meeting new people in your industry and getting together with those in your network to talk about your ideas and your professional goals.
Why is networking important?
In many professions, it’s not just about what you know — It’s about who you know. Networking is important to your career for several reasons.
Strengthens business connections
Networking isn’t just about meeting someone once and hoping a job opportunity will come of it. Instead, it’s all about building relationships. And the more time you invest in those relationships, the stronger they’ll become. Networking is a long game — You’re building relationships that may help your career for years or decades to come.
Access to job opportunities
Networking is a great way to advance your career and have access to amazing job opportunities. Here’s a news flash for you: 70% of jobs aren’t published. Companies either hire internally or they rely on referrals. By networking, you’re opening yourself up to those jobs that aren’t public information.
Mentoring and support
Networking isn’t just about the job opportunities that will be available to you. When you’re networking with people who have been in the field longer than you have, you can also learn a lot. Networking is a great way to find a career mentor. That person can help show you the ropes in the industry and support you through career transitions and difficult situations.
Believe it or not, networking can help you to become a more confident person. When you’re just starting out in your career, pretty much everyone is above you on the totem pole. As a result, you might lack confidence when it comes to sharing ideas and connecting with your coworkers. But networking helps take some of the pressure off. You can get to know people in your field outside of the workplace. And when you get positive feedback from those in your network, you’ll feel even more confident bringing your ideas to the office.
Why meeting in person may not be an option
Even when you have the best of intentions, networking in person isn’t always possible. Technology has made the world smaller, meaning many of us are working or networking with people in entirely different regions. And while this has its benefits, it also eliminates many chances for face-to-face communication.
As mentioned earlier, in-person networking has also become more difficult today thanks to the pandemic. Depending on where you live, being in a room with your professional network may just not be an option.
Why it’s important to meet in person, either virtually or physically
Alright, so we’ve established that networking is important to your career. But does it really have to involve meeting in person? After all, aren’t we living in a digital world? It turns out that even though more of the world is becoming digital, networking is still all about those in-person interactions. In fact, nearly 100% of people surveyed agree that face-to-face meetings are essential for long-term business relationships.
Career growth and development reasons
Networking in person will do wonders for your career. First, it makes you more memorable when job opportunities come up. Look at it this way. Who are you more likely to think of for a job opening:
- The person who you emailed back and forth with a few times and who is qualified for the job?
- The person you connected with at a bunch of networking events, who has a great sense of humor and a welcoming smile, and who is qualified for the job?
In-person networking makes you stand out from the competition in a way that email and text networking simply can’t.
Another career benefit of networking in person is the honest and immediate feedback you can get. Imagine asking your mentor for feedback on a new idea you have. When you’re meeting in person, you can see their facial reaction and they’re forced to respond quickly.
But what if you had sent the same idea via email? You’d have no idea what their first reaction was, and it might take days for them to get around to emailing you back.
Networking in person also has plenty of social benefits. There’s just something more reassuring about in-person conversations. First, you can pick up physical cues and body language that aren’t present in an email conversation. According to a Fit Small Business study, 55% of communication comes from your body language rather than what you say or how you say it.
Meeting in person also reduces the risk of misunderstanding. When you’re speaking face-to-face, you can pick up someone’s tone and understand if they’re telling a joke or using a hint of sarcasm. But with digital communication, one of you might take things the wrong way, damaging the relationship.
In-person networking is the most effective for building long-term connections. You really can’t tell whether you have chemistry with someone when you’re talking via email. And as much as we all love to hate small talk, it helps to build the rapport necessary for a deeper relationship.
Face-to-face meetings also allow you to show off more of your personality. Many traits just don’t translate over written communication. Maybe one of your best traits is your sense of humor — but chances are you aren’t adding jokes to your networking emails. But when someone meets you in person, they have a chance to see that side of you.
Leveraging technology when meeting in person is difficult
While networking in person might be more difficult these days, there are still ways to stay in touch and options for getting that face-to-face networking experience.
If you can’t meet in person, then checking in regularly is even more important. It’ll keep you top of your career and help grow your relationships. Sending an email or a text message, making phone or video calls are simple and easy wats to check-in.
Attend virtual conferences
Since the world shut down because of the pandemic, plenty of organizations have used virtual events to make up for the canceled in-person ones. While it's easy to sign up and not show up, virtual conferences are a great way to get connected and meet new people.
Set up video meetups
Just because you can’t physically meet in person doesn’t mean you can’t meet face-to-face. Video platforms such as Zoom, Skype, and Google allow you to chat with someone as if you’re sitting across the table at a coffee shop. Platforms like Zoom even allow you to add virtual backgrounds to make the feeling even more real!
The bottom line
Networking is one of the best things you can do for long-term career growth. Unfortunately, some circumstances make it difficult to get together with your professional network in person. Thanks to technology, there are now plenty of ways to stay in touch without being able to grab a cup of coffee with your mentor or attend a local networking event.