Why putting in the time and attention to build your networks can pay off

professional connections

You’ve probably heard the saying ‘it’s not what you know, it’s who you know’, but for many people – whether they’re new to the workforce, or seasoned professionals – often wonder how exactly they can make the right connections.  

As the workforce grows increasingly remote and we spend more time online, it can be difficult to create and nurture meaningful connections. So, what’s the secret to effective networking in the digital age?

Get face-to-face

Although one-fifth of people say they prefer digital communication over any other, don’t underestimate the importance of real-world interactions. For one thing, another person’s perception of your sincerity is affected by nonverbal cues, such as your inflection and facial expression, and for another, face-to-face conversations tend to be more positive and perceived as more credible than those that take place online.

For past and present MBA students, university-hosted networking events provide an excellent avenue for in-person relationship-building.

“The career expos are an opportunity to get to know the Australian market and to talk to employers face-to-face and ask them what they want, instead of just looking on the internet,” says Karla Cerrón, who as an MBA (Marketing) student from Peru leveraged her experience and personal network – built up through volunteering positions – to secure an events-based job in the careers department at Western Sydney University (WSU).

“That’s very valuable, because then we have very good idea of what they’re looking for and we can prepare for that.”

Don’t just build, nurture

In terms of career-advancing potential, networking has some obvious advantages – in one survey of 750 business professionals, more than a quarter (28%) had found or been referred to a new role by a network contact.

However, like all relationships, professional relationships require time and attention, and a bit of give-and-take, if they’re going to develop into mutually meaningful connections. That means putting some effort into periodically reaching out to check in and catch up with people, providing professional leads or passing on information about opportunities or events you think they might be interested in, asking people for advice and opinions, and so on.

The potential return on investment is huge – for example, Keegan Carneiro, another MBA (Marketing) student, gained an unexpected and invaluable mentor after he met the Director of Employability of WSU at a campus career expo and they started chatting about his career.

“That’s been really, really helpful for me because he is in the industry and he has first-hand knowledge, plus he works in employability,” Carneiro says, “so gaining information and finding out more about employment in Australia has been absolutely golden coming from his mouth.”

Networking for better business

For savvy employers, a team member’s professional network could be an untapped source of business-building opportunities.

There’s a lot to be said for employee candidate referrals, for example, which improve the quality of new hires and reduce turnover rates and cost and time per hire. And by mining knowledge and business intelligence from employee networks, you stand to gain a better understanding of the market in which you operate.

Meanwhile, for those looking for a partnership with a bigger brand or another business, an employee connection could provide the “in” you need, and maybe even someone to champion your idea to key decision-makers.

The bottom line, for businesses as for individuals, is that you never know where a connection might lead, so take advantage of any chance you get to meet new people and keep an open mind.

Western Sydney University

If you want to improve your graduate career prospects and expand your professional network, study a business degree at Sydney Graduate School of Management.

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