Here are five important reasons to manage your network while you are successfully employed:
1. Increase productivity
Most jobs are interconnected, requiring some degree of collaboration with others. Investing in relationships with the people you depend upon not only makes work more enjoyable, but it increases your ability to get things done. If you need the cooperation of others to achieve your goals, your job performance is at the mercy of those employees. Without a relationship, you must hope that they make your needs a priority among their many other responsibilities. When you build professional relationships with key decision makers across the organization, you can make requests, or ask for favors, and feel more confident that they will rise to the top of the priority list.
2. Uncover new career opportunities
Networking increases your visibility across an organization and exposes you to career options you may never have considered. Whenever possible, participate in cross-functional projects and get to know the people on your team. If you're unclear about your career path and would like to explore new career opportunities, networking outside of your own functional group is a particularly powerful way to broaden your career possibilities.
3. Broaden your perspective
When you've worked in a particular role for a while, or you've worked with the same people for a long time, it's easy to develop a limited "world view." By engaging with professionals from other backgrounds, organizations, and skill sets, you gain exposure to new ways of thinking, which can be helpful in tackling new challenges, solving new problems, and developing new strategies. Doing the same work for a while can get stale, but networking with others can get those creative juices flowing again.
4. Get the inside track
The more connected you are to others, the more "behind the scenes" information you'll be able to access. A critical factor in career success is the ability to adapt to organizational change. If you can anticipate changes, you'll have a distinct competitive advantage. One great way to anticipate change is to have your finger on the pulse of your organization and industry. If you have strong relationships with influential leaders, you may have access to confidential information about upcoming organizational changes, strategic acquisitions, or leadership transitions, which can help you strategically prepare for key changes.
5. Find a new job
We continue to live in an unstable economy where many fall victim to downsizing. Even if you're confident in your job security, it's always helpful to have a strong professional network you can tap in the event of a sudden job loss. Waiting until you need a job to engage in networking can be uncomfortable. It's awkward to approach someone with whom you haven't spoken in years to ask for help. And while most people are willing to help, they may not know you well enough to offer valuable career support. Taking the time to build strong relationships with people before you need them, and making the effort to help others before you need help, will result in far greater returns should you find yourself in the unfortunate position of having to find a new job.
Networking certainly requires a time commitment. In an economy where everyone is forced to do more with less, it can feel impossible to find the time to engage in networking activities. The reality is, however, that you actually gain time when you network. By networking, you build a virtual team of allies that can help you do far more, in far less time, than you could ever do on your own. You also make a powerful investment in your own career success, increasing your visibility and strategically positioning yourself for your next career opportunity.