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Networking for Career Success

Relationship-building, career management, professional networking, career development are all essential components to a successful professional career

Introduction

Professional networks play a vital role in career management and development. As data science evolves, data management professionals are tasked with not only mastering technical skills, but also cultivating human skills, such as the ability to form strong business relationships. Certifications and continued education are necessary to grow as a data management leader; however, the collaboration and knowledge sharing that can result from networking are often just as important.

Networking enables professionals to build personal connections and cultivate mutually beneficial relationships. This involves much more than transactional interactions such as asking someone for a job or for help on a one-time project. Networks are living and breathing entities that require an ongoing relationship-building mindset. While data management is a highly technical field, these relationships provide access to human insights and interactions that are invaluable in any discipline.

The Value of Professional Networking

Investing in networking can help data management professionals keep up with new opportunities, connect with mentors, be introduced to prospective clients and gain a wealth of other resources available only through human connections. A well-maintained business network creates a symbiotic professional community grounded in reciprocity. These networks can open doors that may otherwise not have been available; and just as importantly, provide the opportunity to help others achieve their goals.

Well-networked individuals have access to information such as the hidden job market, and conversely, hidden candidates. A LinkedIn survey found 70 percent of professionals were hired at a company where they had an existing connection and 79 percent believed networking is important for career growth.

While having a strong network is advantageous for all professionals, these relationships are particularly important for women. A recent study found men with broad networks were more likely to attain high-ranking positions; however, for women, the actual composition of their networks was key in getting ahead. Women whose networks were wide with strong female relationships at the core received jobs at seniority levels 2.5 times higher than women with smaller, male-centric networks. Although value may be derived in different ways, both genders benefit from strong connections.

Knowing how to effectively build and grow relationships with diverse individuals is also crucial in leadership positions. As the workforce moves away from traditional leadership models and embraces agile leadership, a broad and deep network is what will set successful leaders apart. In order to act quickly, while still making informed and strategic decisions, agile leaders must have trusted connections that offer a variety of expertise at the ready.

Strategic Networking

By prioritizing relationships and focusing on helping others, networking will become ingrained into everyday interactions. There are several ways to build a strong and collaborative network.

Cultivate an existing network.
Most professionals already have an existing network. Think about how to strengthen relationships with current contacts and re-energize relationships. This list may include past colleagues, professors or college acquaintances. Reach out periodically to see how they are doing and offer help or access to relevant connections as appropriate.

Network within the company.
Networking within your current company has numerous benefits, including improved job satisfaction. Relationships across multiple departments at all levels can provide perspectives and insights that encourage innovation within your own role.

Diversify the network.
It is also valuable to have a broad network of people with unique connections. Achieving this means looking beyond standard industry events and becoming involved with alumni associations or volunteer organizations. This is an excellent way to diversify an existing network and share a common bond with individuals from a variety of industries and backgrounds.

Understand what formats work best.
Networking comes in many shapes and sizes. Find networking opportunities that work best for individual communication style and are most comfortable. One-on-one meetings or phone calls might be more effective ways to connect than larger functions. This could also mean pairing up with a friend or colleague when going to networking events.

Be prepared to tell a personal story.
Storytelling is one of the human skills that enable individuals to connect on a deeper level. Refresh thinking about elevator speeches and transform it into a story that complements your personal brand. When attending a networking event or meeting a contact for coffee, part of a personal story should include clearly articulated intentions and goals.

Ask questions.
Be genuinely curious and come into networking situations with a handful of thoughtful open-ended questions. After asking a question, focus on listening to the response rather than thinking about what to say next. Active listening and an inquisitive mentality enable follow up questions to come naturally. These conversations can help a person get to know an individual on a deeper level, while building rapport and strengthening your connection.

Follow up.
One of the most important components of networking is following up after an initial meeting. This could include planning face-to-face follow-up to continue a conversation, sharing an article, or simply sending a note to acknowledge the connection. Make sure to connect on LinkedIn, to enable easier contact with careers and projects. Networking is an investment and following up supports cultivating each new relationship.

Grow the relationships through networking next practices.
Continually identify ways to help a community thrive. This may mean providing introductions between individuals in each network or offering access to subject matter experts. Remain current on industry trends and issues that affect members of a community and help create engagement among contacts.

Conclusion
In a world that is relying on technology more than ever, human skills and insights are still the secret to staying ahead. Those with strong relationships and broad networks are best equipped to improve processes, strengthen organizations and contribute to the success of others.

Networking should be a continuing and evolving part of everyone’s professional life. Do not wait to start networking. Cultivate a network before needs arise, stay in touch, offer to connect individuals, and share articles and stories they may find of interest. Successful networking takes time, but the results are rewarding and often fun too!

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