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The Essential Value of Networking and How to Get Started

Feb 22, 2022

For two years we’ve been distanced from one another. Established connections have fallen away, and new ones have been challenging to form. And yet, it is connection that we as humans most seek — and we as professionals most need.

In our work life, we call this networking. Unfortunately, when most of us hear the word “networking,” we cringe. We picture rooms filled with strangers, endless small talk, and holding a smile until our cheeks hurt. But networking isn’t about simply meeting as many people as you can or how many followers you have; it’s about forming relationships.

The importance of developing your network throughout your career

From the very beginning of our careers, we’ve all heard it: networking is crucial to success. The network you build can — and most likely will — introduce you to your future employers, business partners and clients. And the data backs it up:

  • 85% of jobs are filled through networking [HubSpot].
  • 70% of jobs are never published publicly [CNBC].
  • 70% of professionals hired in 2016 had a contact at the company [LinkedIn].
  • 80% of professionals consider networking vital to their career success [LinkedIn].

This carries over to the business too. A study from Oxford Economics reports the following findings:

  • 40% is the close rate for in-person meetings.
  • 75% of customers require or prefer in-person meetings.
  • 28% of business would be lost, according to executives, if they stopped networking.
  • 48% of professionals say they go to trade shows to network with vendors.

How networking helps you

Forming relationships with others in your field allows for the exchange of ideas, leads to new opportunities, allows you to be a resource for one another, and provides you with career models from which to reassess your qualifications as you move to new jobs or seek to take a step up the ladder. Networking has also been found to boost self-confidence and status and improve your creative intellect.

Networking isn’t about what you can get from random strangers. As we said before, it’s about building relationships. Solid relationships, where you know what drives another person, where you know random information about them like their hobbies or favorite music, is what builds the basis for a relationship — giving you both a solid lifetime connection. Some questions to think about when you’re talking with someone new, from Vanessa Van Edwards of the Science of People:

  • What motivates this person?
  • What is important to them?
  • What energizes them?
  • What do they love to talk about?
  • What shuts them down or closes them off?
  • What do they value?

Speaking of lifetime, networking is something you need to do throughout your career, not just in the beginning. If you only do it when you need it, those connections fall away. When the time comes that you need an introduction, a job or new clients, a strong network can be the thing that gets you there.

Tips for getting your network started

A lot of people are more comfortable networking online, at least for the initial reach-out. LinkedIn makes it easy to find people in your field by searching for job titles or companies. A great way to start building your network is to reach out to five new people on LinkedIn every month — but make sure your profile is the best it can be first. And be sure not to send the generic “Please join my network” invite. Know why you want to connect with this person and make it personal. If they accept, invite them to meet you for coffee if they’re local, or a video chat or phone call if not. The important thing is to establish a connection beyond job titles and résumés.

Despite living in an exceedingly digitalized world, in-person meetings remain the most effective way to create real connections and a strong network. And one of the most valuable networking events for treasury and finance professionals is AFP’s annual conference. With social events, educational sessions, and specialized meetings planned throughout the four-day conference, you will have the opportunity to meet and interact with peers, nationally known speakers, and experts in the field all in one place. And, we have a few tips to help you make it a successful venture:

  1. Go with a goal. Work out ahead of time why you’re attending and what you want to achieve. Maybe there are specific people you want to meet or a particular company you want to know more about. Make a list (if you can view the attendee list ahead of time, even better), do your research, and make a plan for achieving your goals.
  2. Leverage LinkedIn. Before you attend an event, reach out to people whom you know are attending, people you want to connect with or meet, and let them know you’ll be there.
  3. Ask, “How can I help you?” Helping someone else is a great way to build a lasting connection. “The more people you help, the more help you’ll have and the more help you’ll have helping others,” from “Never Eat Alone” by Keith Ferrazzi.
  4. Follow up. To build the connection, you have to follow up. If you don’t connect with people often, you fall off their radar. Within two days of meeting someone new, send a brief email reminding them who you are and what you talked about. After that, experts suggest following up with acquaintances once per quarter, and once a month with people you’re trying to build a stronger connection with.

Ready to put those networking tips to the test? Join us this fall at AFP 2022!