What is networking and why is networking important

What is networking?

There are two “official” definitions for networking:

  • Networking is building relationships before you need them. Then, when you need them, you will know whom to call and he or she will want to help you. (Darling, 2003)

  • Networking is cultivating relationships and investing regular time and effort, establishing and maintaining career-related contacts. (U.S. Department of the Interior, 1998).

Why is networking important

In order to understand why networking is important, let’s talk about what these definitions say are the key components of networking and how these definitions relate to our group’s ideas about what defines networking. There are three important components of networking that are included in these definitions.

  1. The ideas of “building” and “cultivating” relationships.

  2. Network “before you need them (relationships)” and “investing regular time and effort.”

  3. You will know whom to call.

Some people think of networking as just making small talk on one occasion with others, but true networking involves interactions that are more enduring. One meeting is typically not enough to establish a relationship, so that someone will want to help you in the future. Regular or periodic contacts that can be made through phone, email, or in person will contribute to building, cultivating, and maintaining helping relationships.

Some people think you can create or use a network at the moment you need something. However, the point here is to be networking in advance. When you establish relationships, people feel close to you and ready to help you before you need it. Thus, networking is an active process. You can’t be passive – networks of people won’t come to you automatically, usually, just because you exist. Networking needs to be an active investment and not just done once, but in an ongoing way.

Half of the “battle” is figuring out who can help you accomplish a particular goal or provide you with key information, and then, finding that person. You may have to network with people outside your areas of expertise with a wider range of people to locate the person who best fits your needs. For example, it you are an auto mechanic, you probably know a lot of other auto mechanics, but if you want to open your own garage, you will likely need help from people in other professions. Thus, networking will help connect you with people who can help you with financing, renting, HR (hiring), and marketing - which may become critical to starting your business. Having a wide network of colleagues and mentors will be incredibly helpful to you as you grow in life and in your business pursuits.

Pro Tip

Networking can help you meet your educational and career goals. It can help you connect with people that can help you in the future. You can use your network to build relationships that can give me the emotional support I need to accomplish my goals. You can use networking to increase your social capital.