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The importance of networking and how to build connections

Published on: 24 Apr 2024

Success isn’t always about what you know – it’s also about who you know. And when it comes to networking, building genuine relationships is the cornerstone of professional growth that offers a pathway to new opportunities – not just relying on building your connections on LinkedIn or having as many conversations as possible with different people at an event.

APM

Whether you’re new to your role, or an experienced professional, networking nurtures you and others around you to bring more positivity to working life. Let’s explore the importance of networking and how to build relationships that will support your professional development.  

Networking is important for your professional development:

  • Find new opportunities. Networking helps you meet people from different backgrounds, professions and industries which can lead to job offers, partnerships, collaborations or mentorship.
  • Share information and knowledge. Networking creates a way to share ideas, insights and lessons learned; you can gain, and impart, valuable knowledge.
  • Develop important skills. When you network, you have to talk to people, so it helps develop your communication, interpersonal and stakeholder engagement skills.
  • Get genuine support. Your network can be your support system during professional challenges whether you need advice or assistance.
  • Receive mentoring. Mentorships are one of the most valuable relationships you can build. When you network, you find people to mentor you, or who you can mentor.
  • Diversify your mindset. Networking can broaden your perspective because you’ll be exposed to different views and ideas from a diverse group of people.
  • Progress your career. Building a strong professional network can seriously bolster your career and professional potential. You can learn about job openings, access resources and get career advice.

Networking is essential for both personal and professional growth; it broadens your horizons, opens new opportunities, and enriches your career. But how do you go about building a network?

Practical ways to network:

  1. Connect with different people. Reach out to different people than you normally would, for example, your manager’s manager, a team leader in a different organisation, a sales person on the ground with customers. Everyone! You can learn a lot from others about their careers and experiences, and they can learn a lot about your perspective and talents. Don’t do it just for a new job. Networking isn’t about getting someone to give you a new job, your goal should be to meet a few people and expand your reach. For example, you chat to someone about their work and life, perhaps eventually ask them if they can introduce you to anyone in your field of interest, and then reach out to those people, and so on. Find a community to join. This is one of the best ways to start building your network. Online project management communities and forums can help you find people that you can build relationships with. Being part of a membership body, like APM, is being part of an international network of project professionals who can support your career.
  2. The APM Community, Regional and Interest Networks are bursting with project professionals from a range of backgrounds that are there to support you. Focus on helping others. As much as networking can benefit you, think about how it can benefit others around you, in a personal or professional way. Be open to listening to what others have to say and be willing to connect people to each other. Think about what you’re good at, for example writing or listening, then help others who need their CV reviewed or need feedback on their presentation skills. Being knowledgeable and helpful makes you memorable!
  3. Attend in-person events. Virtual events are great, don’t skip them, but don’t underestimate the importance of being there in-person. Going to small or big events with colleagues or on your own, is a great way to build your connections. If you’re part of an online community, perhaps you can find others who are going and meet them there. APM hosts lots of in-person and virtual events in different locations, where you can meet your peers and build your networking skills. Make sure you follow your Regional Network for the latest quslity events happening within your local community.
  4. Listen more than you speak. This is particularly effective if you’re shy or new to networking because it helps you engage without doing all the talking. Asking thoughtful questions and actively listening is a good way to make meaningful connections because it shows people that you value their opinion. If you’re not sure what to ask then consider asking for some advice – people like to help and they’ll see you as asking for their opinion and information, rather than a job opportunity.
  5. Keep nurturing and growing your network. Networking isn’t something you do to meet an immediate goal; it should be a bigger part of your career and professional growth. Regularly attending events, whether online or in-person and making trips to your office if you’re a remote/hybrid worker, introduces you to more and more people. The more people you meet and build relationships with, the more your job prospects improve and the more memorable you become.
  6. Maintain an online presence. Building your digital footprint in our modern world is crucial to support your professional growth and nurture your network. You don’t have to become a LinkedIn influencer by any means but reach out to some connections directly to start a conversation. It’s also a good idea to post your thought leadership when you see something that catches your attention, it helps you pop up on feeds and builds your relevance.

Networking should be an important part of your professional development; it helps you connect with like-minded peers, build your skills and diversifies your perspectives. When you approach networking with authenticity and genuine interest, you’ll build a network that advances your career goals and enriches your personal and professional life. We know it can be scary, but don’t be afraid to start a conversation – you never know what it may lead to!