How Networking Skills Can Help Make You a Coveted Employee

Nancy Anderson
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Few people intentionally put hurdles in their own career paths, yet choosing to avoid networking is like putting your career in a box and cutting yourself off from relationships that help you learn, grow and come up with new ideas. If you want to become an irreplaceable asset within any company, show your leadership potential by using internal and external networking to stay ahead of trends and build influential partnerships.

Networking for Information

Power comes from the combination of knowledge and action. You have to know what is going on at your job, in relevant industries and in the wider community. You have to understand how client needs, the company's direction and the priorities of organizational leaders all change over time. Staying informed gives you the power to make strategic business decisions and act at the right moment. These objectives may seem excessive when you prefer to focus on concrete business functions, but networking for information helps you prioritize goals that have the most impact on personal and company success.

Harvard Business Review anonymously profiled 30 managers transitioning into their leadership roles and discovered a pattern. Leaders have more authority and longevity when they build a network of support, information and resources. One manager, nicknamed Sophie, was blindsided when the company wanted to reorganize and redistribute her job functions. Although her team performed well, Sophie rarely made an effort to consult with reliable opinion leaders for ideas and feedback, so she was ignorant of ongoing power and priority shifts.

After a failed counter-proposal, Sophie's boss viewed her resistance to change as a sign that she lacked an insightful, comprehensive business perspective. With guidance from a senior manager, Sophie realized that building relationships and gathering knowledge are essential for developing viable business plans.

Top employers don't just want hard workers. They want you to demonstrate your intelligence and vision by diagnosing potential problems and proposing relevant solutions that foster long-term progress. Effective networking makes you stand out as a leader — someone who is diplomatic, proactive and capable of turning goals and ideas into actionable plans.

Building Social Capital

Strong networking skills show employers that you can bring value to the company beyond your technical duties. That value can take many forms, such as beneficial vendor relationships, client referrals, B2B partnerships, hiring recommendations and mentorships. When you are well-known and trusted, you attract high-quality connections and create opportunities for the entire business to advance.

Chris Cancialosi, founder of gothamCulture, identifies this network of influence as "social capital." Having a wealth of influence lets you use shared goals and values to gain resources and encourage cooperation. Building social capital inside and outside the company boosts your professional visibility while ensuring that you have advocates to back your ideas, provide advice and support your leadership at critical moments. Cancialosi offers valuable tips for increasing your social capital.

Contribute valuable insight, and be an active participant in your field. Whether you prefer to share advice through social media or attend professional seminars, show your willingness to give without receiving something in return.

Build trust and authority by connecting people who can benefit one another. Your efforts facilitate strong partnerships and make others feel motivated to help you when you need it.

Take part in relevant dialogue in your field. You gain opportunities to learn from professionals with diverse skills and perspectives while establishing yourself as a forward-looking thought leader.

Be supportive of others in your network, and share their accomplishments with people who can help them advance. Whether you mentor interns or offer financial tips to new entrepreneurs, a reputation of generosity yields reciprocity.

The Practical Benefits of Networking

If you resist networking, it's probably because the interaction feels insincere or pointlessly time-consuming. Unfortunately, you may leave yourself vulnerable to information gaps, hindering your ability to adapt and gain promotions as your job and industry evolve.

The key is to build strong relationships in natural ways by connecting over shared interests and evaluating what others need, including your employer. For example, devoting time to skill-building internships and mentorships helps your company recruit and promote the best talent. Spending time with board members outside of meetings lets you weigh different viewpoints to make sure your operational objectives align with the company's direction.

Interpersonal networking skills set you apart from colleagues who are qualified but lack the influence to sway opinions and introduce cost-efficient partnerships. When it's time to recruit or promote, employers seek professionals who have an impressive track record of strategic communications and collaboration.

Photo Courtesy of Permaculture Association at


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  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Abbey you don't have to throw your pitch right away. If you walk up to someone - just start a casual conversation: introduce yourself; talk about the event such as maybe the food is good or it's crowded, etc. Then you could move on to talking about what you do (did) and ask them what type of work they are in and so on. Don't be scared of networking. You have done it all of your life but just didn't call it networking. When you started your first job, how did you get to know your co-workers? It's the same concept - just a different setting.

  • Abbey Boyd
    Abbey Boyd

    What are some of the tactics people use to transition into a conversation with someone for the purpose of networking? I have a hard time just walking up to a random person and throwing my pitch right away. What tips do others have for making a smooth approach so as not to seem awkward?

  • Jay Bowyer
    Jay Bowyer

    In my own experience, networking for information really does make you a particularly valuable company asset — and one worth promoting. Your company wants to be successful and wants to drive growth: information about competitors helps them do this. Sure, it's little bit like spying, but that might just be what makes it fun...

  • Lydia K.
    Lydia K.

    @Shannon, I agree, networking should not take away time from your regular responsibilities on the job. However depending on your position, you may be able to do some networking while performing your normal duties. For example, if you go to training sessions or conferences, it's natural to mingle and swap business cards. You can also get to know people in your field while reading up on news and trends for your job. Some professional groups also have meetups scheduled pretty far in advance so that people can fit them into busy schedules.


    @Hema, networking doesn't need to be something that intrudes upon your time with your friends and family. Networking isn't something that needs to be done formally- it can occur in the cafeteria or the break room or at other work events. Networking can also be dine remotely, by sending emails to associates in your field asking to catch up with them or asking about new projects they are involved in.

  • Mike Van de Water
    Mike Van de Water

    Hema, it's a delicate balance, but it can be done. Consider making "professional-only" social media accounts that you can restrict access to. After all, the potential client probably isn't interested in your 7-year-old niece's soccer video, and your social friends probably don't want to be blasted with information about your business, either. Having separate online identities could be the key to your issue.

  • Jacqueline Parks
    Jacqueline Parks

    I am one of those people who loves seeking information but is reluctant to network. I am just not a people person, and small talk is so uncomfortable to me. One thing that helped me improve my networking was moving into the freelance area. I quickly realized that I need to make connections to move forward in my career. Now I set specific networking goals to makes sure that connections are a priority.

  • Hema Zahid
    Hema Zahid

    How can I network with people that share my personal interests and keep my professional life separate from my private life? It seems to me networking involves a lot of socializing outside of the workplace. I would rather use my free time to catch up with family and friends rather than network with my professional contacts.

  • Jane H.
    Jane H.

    That is so true about building trust and authority. Years ago, I worked with a gentleman who was the founder of a media company. He had a dynamic personality and boundless energy. However, he lacked integrity and eventually drove away all his best people, including me, because he tried to pit people against each other and himself. The moral of that story is to treat people with respect when they're not looking, not just when you're looking at them.

  • Duncan  Maranga
    Duncan Maranga

    @Shannon I can not agree more with your statement that regardless of the power that is vested in networking as a development spear-heading tool, a lot of caution should be taken lest it consumes invaluable work time yet produce no substantive results. I also believe that networking should come as a complementary idea to serious work and not a replacement.

  • Shannon Philpott
    Shannon Philpott

    Networking is definitely a powerful tool and resource when you are employed and job seeking; however, it can also suck your time away from necessary job duties. As an employer, I would be concerned if my employees were spending too much time socializing, especially if it is not resulting in attracting new clients to the business.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @William it's tough when you are an introvert but not impossible. Try choosing just one person who looks like they would be easy to talk with and start there. Just a hi, how are you would open the conversation. Then introduce yourself and let the conversation roll on. It's hard I am sure but you do it at work - right? And who knows - that hi might open up some doors and give you a new friend and some new job leads. If you just absolutely can't network in person, then you will need to find networking events online or use your social media sites to network.

  • William Browning
    William Browning

    What do I do if I'm an introvert? The best networkers seem to enjoy being around people all of the time, but I'd rather read a good book. What suggestions do you have for introverts who need to network to get ahead in the career game? Plus, I don't like approaching complete strangers and saying "hi" because I have a hard time starting a conversation.

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