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It’s not what you know, it’s who you know”, we’ve all heard the old adage at one point or another. Most likely in reference to some former contemporary that’s managed to make a meteoric rise through the company hierarchy. While many of us might scoff at the suggestion that social ability trumps experience and skill, the truth is that professional networking is an extremely important aspect of career advancement.

According to a LinkedIn survey released last year, 70% of employees hired in 2016 had prior personal connections at their new workplace. Meanwhile 35% of respondents mentioned that a casual conversation on the online platform provided them with a new career opportunity. In total 80% of professionals agree that networking is a crucial tool for career advancement.

Invest in Relationships and You Will Be Rewarded in the Long-Term

* Are you looking for expert insights from well-regarded leaders within the sector? Striking up a rapport with a former manager, or industry blogger will provide you with invaluable information about how to navigate your career progression. 

* Is your job hunt petering out due to a lack of available positions? Former classmates may know about unpublicized open positions within their organization. 

* Unsure about committing your future to a company in a different region? A well-placed ex colleague may have some insider knowledge that can help you reach a more informed decision. 

* Feel as if your skillset is getting stagnant? Connecting to an industry influencer can give your fresh perspectives, and keep you up to date on the cutting-edge trends within your sector.

Some Tips to Get You Off and Running

Self-Assess

Think of every networking interaction as an opportunity to inform people about who you are, and where you’re looking to go in your career. In order to achieve that you need to understand your strengths, abilities and passions and prepare a few talking points around each. This script will help you sell yourself if you need to pitch to a new acquaintance, but be warned don’t lean too heavily on pre-prepared topics otherwise you’ll come off as insincere.   

Tap into Your Existing Networks

You already have many of the building blocks of your network at your disposal. Talk to your friends and family and see if they can refer you to anyone else within the industry, a warm introduction from a close acquaintance can open doors that would otherwise be closed at your career level. University alumni networks are also a great resource for uncovering previously unknown links, be sure to attend at least a few club events to forge some more personal connections.

Of course while you’re doing this you should be making friends with the people you already work with, as painful as it may seem a good reference from a co-worker can be a great advantage when it comes time to switch companies.

Connect Online

With the rise of social media, a lack of time and opportunity just isn’t an excuse for neglecting professional networking anymore. Make sure to follow and endorse colleagues, university classmates and managers, and if you see thoughtful industry-specific discussions occurring do your research and jump in, you never know who’s paying attention.

A great way to create conversation and lay a platform for industry connections is through a series of consistent blog posts. Pick a passion or an area of interest and write a few short, targeted articles showing off the breadth of your knowledge. Make sure to post these musings to popular groups in order to invite the attention of influencers.  Watch out for replies and make sure to engage.