Expanding Your Networking Comfort Zone

The art of making personal connections is more important than ever. No matter how many LinkedIn connections you
boast, there will never be a true replacement for eye contact, a handshake, and the value a personal connection can bring to your career and personal life.

Yet, as more and more individuals rely on the internet to interact with one another, in-person networking has taken a back seat for many and has become an intimidating activity for many more. From one perspective, that’s not surprising; society’s penchant for using social media and reliance on email has made some of us slightly more hesitant to approach a stranger and strike up a conversation. But reflecting honestly, hasn’t this general discomfort with networking always been the case?

Whatever the source, there are many ways to push yourself out of your comfort zone and realize the benefits of networking. Important for everyone, this is arguably even more important for women, as research from McKinsey & Company found that women’s lack of access to informal networks creates structural obstacles to career advancement that are as detrimental as lacking mentors.

Networking can be a powerful professional tool. By reminding yourself of the three overarching tangible benefits of thoughtful, intentional networking described below, you may find networking all the more appealing.

Tangible Benefits of Networking

    1. Helps Identify the Right New Opportunity
      While job boards and company websites might be the first place many people look for new career opportunities, the vast majority of job positions are not listed publicly. In fact, one expert estimated that between 70 and 80 percent1 of all jobs are not posted at all. The best way to find these opportunities and to get your foot into this “underground” job market is to expand your personal network. With other experts estimating that as much as 85 percent2 of all jobs are filled through networking, expanding your list of professional contacts is an absolute must for those building a career.
    2. Build Business Connections
      No matter your field, expanding your network can open up countless openings to find new business opportunities and add value to your company. One survey found that 38 percent3 of business owners have increased business opportunities by networking. Whether it be a new contact that turns into a potential referral source or sale, or a third-party service provider that can help your business perform at a higher level, you never know when these connections will come in handy.
    3. Discover New Perspectives
      Aside from the obvious business and professional opportunities, networking can lead career builders to find new ideas, fresh perspectives, and even mentors that can guide you throughout your career. By broadening your network to individuals outside of your professional field, you can hear about new approaches and ways of thinking from people across the business landscape, and even find lifelong friends.

Taking the Plunge

Networking can be intimidating. But the benefits of expanding your personal network are too significant to ignore. It is important to continue pushing yourself outside your comfort zone by continually introducing yourself, following up, and helping out contacts outside of your current company or role. You never know what door a new connection will open up.


1 https://www.npr.org/2011/02/08/133474431/a-successful-job-search-its-all-about-networking
2 https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/new-survey-reveals-85-all-jobs-filled-via-networking-lou-adler/
3 http://www.tradeready.ca/2017/topics/marketingsales/follow-networking-according-numbers/