We’d like to think that competence and expertise in the workplace are the qualities needed to advance in your professional career; however, the key phrase here is ‘We’d like to think’. Whilst these attributes are commendable and aid somewhat in career progression, it is now more than ever that the phrase ‘It’s not what you know, it’s who you know; that should be the first thing addressed in any given career advice.
With more and more young people heading off to university, the pool of once desirable university graduates has become saturated with more of the same. Many are under the false pretence that getting a degree is a sure fire way of gaining success when the real answer is networking.
A study last year that looked at student loans and tax data for England revealed that at more than one in ten universities, male graduate earnings were lower than non-graduate earnings. We can no longer tell our youngsters that higher education will secure them their dream job; we need to start telling them that making contacts and developing networks has always been and will always be the pathway to success.
More importantly, this message is not exclusive to the youth of today. At whatever stage in your life making connections and building networks, if done right, can prove beneficial to your professional career; whether that be securing a job or maintaining a company relationship.
Networking often holds the misconception of aimlessly standing around making awkward small talk with strangers for little gain but it creates opportunities that you would otherwise never have. The reality is that hundreds of people, just like you, are good at their job so unless you are the Einstein of your field, you need something to separate you from the crowd – good connections.
We live in a world where staying connected is easier than ever with networking sites such as Facebook or LinkedIn so there is no excuse for losing contact with a future employer or potential client. Who knows what openings could arise from these connections. Once you’ve established a friendly relationship with someone it is harder to break a business deal or employment promise because whether we like it or not being a likeable person is one of the most useful playing cards you can hold in today’s society.
That is not to say you should stress over an unanswered email or unfriendly tone because let’s face it, you’re not going to get on with everyone. Networking is thinking about what you can give rather than just what you can get. If you act confidently, think about what you can offer and pay attention to important contacts, you’ll develop a web of people who will prove more useful than any background, education or experience could ever do.