Why Networking is Crucial to Your Success
By Gail Whitaker, DM, Director of Business and Management Graduate Programs
In today’s professional climate, conducting business effectively is all about building relationships. Knowing the right person could help you find an internship, job, research opportunity, or help with graduate school placement. And this is why networking is so important to your future.
Despite the importance of networking, many people seem hesitant to dedicate energy to the activity. According to Dr. Gail Whitaker, Program Director of Graduate Business at CTU, the two main reasons are:
1. The fear of rejection
2. The belief that there is no value in networking
Don’t let fear of rejection hold you back. “Networking is about building relationships, and students should approach it without preconceived expectations. Having fewer expectations about the outcome of networking will reduce the risk of rejection,” Dr. Whitaker explains.
If you are apprehensive about approaching a possible contact for networking, you may be experiencing what Dr. Whitaker calls the “high school lunch table clique” effect, or a sense of fear that the group of “popular” people in a networking environment won’t want to speak with you. Networking, however, is more than just trying to find some cool people to hang out with. By networking, you are seeking to expand your circle of contacts. Look for individuals who can influence you and to whom you can offer value in return. “Networking is not about being exclusive, but about being inclusive,” says Dr. Whitaker.
Here are 3 effective networking tips suggested by Dr. Whitaker:
- Shared Interests - Find people who have had similar life and professional experiences. These people can support you with helpful resources and advice.
“I was at a networking event where someone at my lunch table whom I had never met before gave me some of the best thinking to help me frame my dissertation research. That one meeting saved me hours of research and escalated my doctoral work,” says Dr. Whitaker.
- Career-Focused - Find those who can help you with your future aspirations. They can be a big help in securing a role in the industry you want to go into.
“I know a student who got an interview for a major internship with the federal government after networking with people at a tea,” Dr. Whitaker said.
- Give back - You have gifts to offer, so be a mentor and “pay it forward.”
Learn how to network no matter what situation you are in. Networking can happen at a lunch, at a formal meeting, or through an email. Dr. Whitaker shares a personal story about how an unexpected networking opportunity helped her transform another woman’s life:
“Not too long ago, I was in the hair salon and introduced myself to the person sitting next to me. As we talked, she mentioned that she wanted to go further in her career but needed to get an advanced degree to boost her credentials. She had been thinking about getting her MBA for over two years, but never took it further because it seemed like there were so many steps to take to get into school.
I explained my role in academics and the value of taking that step forward, and encouraged her to pursue her MBA. I was able to answer many of her questions and calm her hesitations. By the end of the conversation, she had mapped out an actual career plan that included pursuing her MBA later that year.
The woman recently emailed me to tell me she was enrolled in an MBA program in the fall. I told her I would hold her accountable to her plan and email her periodically to see how she was doing. She committed to contacting me if she had any questions or hit any roadblocks. We were able to accomplish in a few hours something she had been putting off for two years. That is the power and value of networking!”
Networking, while intimidating, is crucial to your success, no matter what industry you pursue. Knowing the players in your field is always an advantage and can help you become a member of their team. Be open to networking anywhere, anytime, and you’ll be on track to pursuing your professional goals.
Gail Whitaker, DM, is the Director of Business and Management Graduate Programs at Colorado Technical University. She has over 25 years of management training and is committed to helping students achieve their goals through education. Watch Dr. Whitaker’s CTU Story to learn more.
Image credit: Dimitri Vervitsiotis/Getty Images