How Professional Networking can Improve your Career Progression


Updated June 15, 2018 - Sophie Thompson

Networking is one of the most valuable skills you can develop. It can be an enjoyable experience that brings value to your work and can even enhance your career. In this article, we discuss how networking can assist with career progression.

What is professional networking?

Networking consists of meeting and interacting with professional contacts to exchange information and help each other. It doesn't always have to be in a formal setting and there are a variety of ways networking occurs, from handing out your business cards to speaking with someone at an industry event.

Let's now look at how networking can be beneficial to your career.

New business clients

Networking events are filled with professionals which gives you the opportunity to find new clients for your company. This is especially useful for small and medium sized businesses, who may have knowledge gaps. For example, a medium sized business may not have the expertise for social media management, and may be looking to outsource this to an agency.

Business relationships are based on trust and credibility - if you can form trustworthy connections, you’re more likely to deal with these contacts in the future. This is great for your career as it shows your superiors that you’re committed to the company and to helping it grow and succeed.

Ensure that you communicate professionally when following up on business leads as they may act differently in their working environment compared to a casual networking event. Follow up in a timely manner and don't pester.

Access to talent

If you work in recruitment, professional networking is an ideal way to fill job roles for clients and even foster relationships with people who you could find a job for in the future. By talking to people at networking events, you can already tell what sort of person someone is professionally and whether they meet your client's requirements.

This will help you in the long-term as you’ll be able to quickly present strong candidates to clients which will increase your performance at work thus opening up more opportunities for yourself.

Professional networking group of people talking

Increasing confidence and interpersonal skills

Confidence is an important characteristic for business because, for example:

  • It allows you to clearly communicate your views and ideas
  • People will do business with someone who seems like they can deliver their promises
  • Assists with decision-making etc

The more you practice communicating with people, the more your confidence will grow and the more likely you will succeed in your career. Others can detect confidence, you'll see this if you're asked for your ideas and views and also being asked to introduce people.

Become accustomed to speaking about:

  • Your work and responsibilities
  • Your skills and expertise
  • Challenges
  • Achievements
  • Experiences
  • Goals

Build your status

When building your career, it’s important to be visible to others - from work colleagues to potential employers. By attending networking events, you’ll build your status within the community by building professional relationships and sharing your knowledge on topics you're familiar with, as well as providing your unique perspective on different areas of business.

Here are some tips:

  • Listen attentively
  • Remember names
  • Follow-up on conversations, for example, if you promised to send contact details then do this
  • Offer your knowledge
  • Network frequently so you increase your chances of meeting the right people and it also gets your face known

You can become a person that everyone wants to speak with because you've shown that you're trustworthy, supportive and knowledgeable. You will also raise the likelihood of being approached by recruiters.

Assists with the exchange of information

Networking is valuable for finding out about best practices, business methods and remaining on top of developments. It's useful to actively ask your network about these and to also see what your contacts are sharing online.

The more you know, the more desirable you are. For example, you can appeal to your superiors by suggesting new practices - ones that you heard through networking. In addition, learning from what others are doing is beneficial for all companies and guarantees the maintenance of high standards.

The exchange of information helps you discover different viewpoints on industry trends and where the industry is expected to develop in the future. You should see what contacts think will happen after a recent event occurs in your industry, such as, multiple high-street shops being closed.

Industry experts tend to be well connected themselves so this can open up even more opportunities for you. Having a personal understanding of your industry also puts you in a better place for career progression.

Building personal relationships

Networking can lead to friendships which can help with career progression because this can build trust which in turn helps with business.

If someone tells you about a personal opportunity, when you next see them ask about it. Seeing friends in the crowd also makes future events more relaxing and enjoyable.

Professional networking at a conference

New perspectives and ideas

Networking provides you with new perspectives and ideas that can assist with your career - it gives you views and ideas that may not have occurred to you beforehand.

It's also useful to speak with people that work in different fields to you as they can provide entirely fresh perspectives.

This is why it's important to talk to a range of individuals and not just people that appear to be instantly valuable, such as, someone higher up in the same field as you.

Advice and guidance from people

You shouldn’t only network for personal gain or if you’re looking for a new job opportunity. The point of professional networking is to seek out and build trustworthy, valuable relationships with others. This can build a support network that can help you throughout your career.

This network can help advise you, whether it be about a particular problem at work or your own professional development. For example, you may ask them what they think of the career move you're considering. You'll receive valuable advice and it'll also show that you respect them because you want their views.

Calling on your support network during challenging times provide you with the help or the reassurance you need.

You can bounce ideas off each other, for example, maybe you're thinking about presenting on a certain topic at a conference. Listening to what others say can help you narrow your arguments and think about any limitations. This also allows you to highlight your strengths - by sharing some of your ideas you will be talking about your knowledge and proficiencies. This makes it easier to talk about yourself indirectly.

Your network might be able to give you information on prospective clients - just be careful not to breach confidentiality.

Your network fundamentally becomes a resource for you to use.

Job offers and opportunities

Studies have shown that up to 80% of jobs are never advertised, meaning that they are filled by word-of-mouth through their employees’ connections.

Companies take a risk employing someone new and if someone is recommended by an existing trusted employee, you’re much more likely to get the job because you’re less of a risk.

If you’re looking to change company or industry, professional networking is a good way of learning about opportunities ahead of the competition.

When trying to choose a career you have to gather information about jobs you're interested in. An effective way of doing this is by speaking with someone working in that role. You can ask people in your network to direct you to somebody.

If you're being interviewed for a job then networking and using your network is beneficial in finding out about the employer.

Opportunities do not always mean finding a new job, for example, it can mean being given the chance to start your own business or it may assist with personal development.

Learn from their successes and failures

Ask fellow networkers what would they do differently if they could go back and if there's anything they would recommend. Learning from these successes and failures will aid your own career progression. You might initially find this uncomfortable but people are unlikely to react negatively and we tend to like to talking about ourselves.

Professional networking at lunch time

Law of reciprocity

Professional networking is essentially about helping each other out and sharing. If you give advice to someone or make a valuable introduction for them, they are much more likely to do the same for you in return. Social psychologists call this behaviour The Law of Reciprocity - if someone helps you, you have a deep-rooted psychological urge to help them in the future.

So, the more you can help your connections achieve their goals, the more they will want to help you achieve yours. Also, making sure that you care about these contacts and what happens to them will make you unique - you will be perceived as trustworthy and as someone who works to help others. Due to this new contacts, that you may never have met, may contact you.

Promotions

Research has suggested that having a network increases the chances of a promotion and salary increase. This is because networking increases your knowledge and makes you and your skills more visible. This increases the chances of your superiors noticing you, especially if a recruiter gets into contact you because it will show that you're in demand.

Finding a networking event

If you want to find networking events near you but don’t know where to start, take a look at websites such as Meetup.com, where you can search for events in your local area.

We've written an article on where to find business networking opportunities, which include:

  • Conferences
  • Existing networks
  • Industry and trade associations
  • Online networking
  • Speed networking
  • Personal contacts
  • Non-profit events

Face-to-face vs online networking

The majority of networkers prefer face-face networking, for example, even among junior executives, 68% said they prefer to network in person, compared to 36% who network online.

In her whitepaper, Hobsbawm says networking in person helps build trust and understanding, and she recommends choosing five contacts to meet for a coffee or lunch every week.

Improving your networking skills

If you don’t feel confident with your professional networking skills, you could take an online course to learn techniques that will help you effectively network. Try our networking course, which combines traditional online classes with VR, and you'll learn about how to enter and exit a group conversation, make others feel at ease, how to maintain valuable connections, and more.


You'll benefit from networking regardless of your career and what stage you've reached. Ensure that you keep in regular contact with your network, even by sending brief emails asking how they are. It's difficult to tell when a network will produce an opportunity as it's more of a long-term venture but it's never too late to start forming one.