People that are good at building and maintaining a strong professional network are rarely unemployed for long; and it’s not just because they know a lot of people who can hire them. It’s because the competencies that are necessary for successful networking are highly sought after in the job market. When you are actively networking, you are both a) continually honing these skills and more importantly, b) proving that you have them!
Here are a few of the intangible skills involved in successful networking:
Interpersonal Communication Skills – Networking is communicating. If you are a good networker you are adept at one of the most important business skills around: engaging with another human being. You can talk to people, ask questions, listen to their responses; in other words, you know how to build relationships. This is not a universal skill, and it’s highly prized by employers.
Self-Confidence – Reaching out to someone new is hard, and building new relationships is tough; that’s why we usually just stick to our own small social group. By networking, you are proving that you have the confidence to approach new people, and that if things don’t go great, it won’t discourage you. Self-worth is an attribute that can’t be taught and is in high demand (and not just in the sales department).
Teamwork – Networking involves supporting other people, and asking for help when you need it, i.e., it requires teamwork. Everyone says they’re a team player, but we both know that’s not the case. By showing you can work in the social web and that you have people that want to interact with you (without being forced because you work together), you prove that you can “play well with the other kids” and that you’re a good addition to an organization.
These are just a few of the skills that you hone when you are networking, and are critical to excelling in the workplace. Technical skills aren’t enough. If all you have is the technical skill to do a job, you’re replaceable by someone else who has that skill, or by technology. You are just a commodity, interchangeable with anyone else who has that skill. But when you take the technical skills and add the ability to interact with others (coworkers, clients, bosses, direct reports) at a high level, you create a powerful mix of skill sets.
Who gets the chance to practice these skills and improve their worth to a potential employer? It’s the person who is out building relationships on a regular basis, regardless of their current employment situation. If you consistently put yourself in situations where you are interacting with new people and improving your “soft skills”, you are constantly becoming more valuable in the marketplace. This, combined with the fact that you do know more people who can connect you with job opportunities, will ensure that you never want for work.