Career networking can be scary for some that feel shy, nonsocial, or worried how they will be perceived. The assumption is that Career Networking means that you are trying to connect with someone that can help further your career. But it truly means much more than that; we network every day in our personal lives.  We network to find a significant other or to even connect with new friends. Networking means to connect with someone to build lasting and mutually beneficial relationships.  The same is for Career Networking; it is not just about finding someone that you can ride on their coat tails to help get you to the top. It is truly about making those connections to build lasting professional relationships where both parties benefit from the relationship.

I am sure most of us have experienced a personal relationship where you have contributed 100% to the relationship while the other person only contributed 40%, and we all know what happened to that relationship, it fizzled out. The same goes for Career Networking. If you met someone that you shared common career or professional interest with, it’s not enough to just exchange business cards or friend on Facebook. You have to take it further and cultivate the relationships, take that next step and reach out to them. Maybe ask them to lunch and see what advice or wisdom they could share with you about their career.

Networking doesn’t just happen at planned events or professional functions, it occurs in your daily interactions with friends, family, classmates, neighbors, acquaintances, co-workers, your service providers, people you go to church with, etc. If you were to write down on a piece of paper all of the people you know; friends, family, or anyone in your life you would be amazed at the amount of people that are connected to you. Look at Facebook, the average amount of friends that most people have is in the 500 and above range.  And then think that for each one of the people that you are connected to or know they are connected to hundreds more. My mother always said that, “We are all one person away from knowing everybody”. Start with the people that are in your network already and branch off, the key is to share with everyone your career-related goals and plans because you never know where it could lead you.

Networking is a key to anyone’s professional career and I have always said that, “Networking is like shoes, you can never have too many shoes and you can never know too many people”. Have an open mind and don’t be afraid of rejection, much like in our personal lives we fear rejection. Not everyone you meet will be able to offer you a job, but then you never know who they are connected to and where it could lead.