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    Networking is not always easy, however, when done well, it will not only help you land a job faster, but it will give you a competitive edge throughout every stage of your career.

    Many successful people and companies have strongly suggested the importance of networking and the role it played in their success. From their first mentor to the belief in their potential by a manager, networking and fostering relationships should be at the forefront of building a successful career.

    Networking is not always easy. Often it is awkward, time-consuming and an uphill battle to ‘get in’ with the right people. When it’s done well, networking will not only help you land a job faster, but it will give you a competitive edge throughout every stage of your career.

    Why you should care about building relationships

    There is a misconception that networking is begging people in high places for favours. If done properly and with the right people, networking is a way in which you build lifelong relationships that are reliable and mutually beneficial. If you think about it, you network every day of your life. From the person who makes your coffee at the coffee shop, to meeting new people; you are constantly building new relationships and maintaining old ones. Experts agree that the most successful people are the most connected. That is why it is important to invest time into new and existing relationships because you will reap the benefits throughout your career. Networking offers you a unique way to keep abreast with the latest industry trends, have a pulse on the job market and meet potential clients, partners, and customers.

    How to start your networking journey

    Firstly, see the networking journey as building relationships and making friends. This takes the pressure off of you to meet “the right person who will get you everything”. Nobody wants to be seen as just a vessel to get you to where you want. And you don’t need to be seen as a career “opportunist”. As the world experiences a global pandemic, meeting face to face is becoming increasingly difficult. However, this does not mean that connection is dead. In fact, now more than ever people are craving connection. Always think of people you admire or want to meet as just regular people who you want to connect with based on similar interests, passions and goals.

    Getting out of your comfort zone

    If you’re naturally shy, having success in networking can be a challenge. Fortunately, your introversion does not need to hinder you. Before any conversation or networking event, brainstorm some possible conversation topics that you feel comfortable with to easily speak about. Second, if meeting in person is something you need to work up to, download the Trace Academia app to use the discussion boards for you to meet and network with like-minded people. Forums like these offer a great way to practice your conversational skills.

    Building the right connections for you

    It is easy to think that networking only happens vertically meaning that the higher the person within the business the better. That is not always necessarily true. The easiest way to start building your fostering relationship skills is to start with people you already know. You probably have a friend who knows a friend of a friend. Use six degrees of separation to your advantage. As a fresh graduate, use the alumni network, send your favourite lecturer an email and get in touch with your peers from your clubs and societies. Once you have exhausted your close networks, you can expand to their acquaintances and finally strangers once the process becomes second nature.

    Never undermine anyone

    There are no little guys or big guys. There are just people who have nicer sounding titles. The power of building connections is that you can see someone’s value no matter what their position is. If you can do that, you have crossed the first hurdle. The importance of not undermining anyone is that you could be talking to a potential client, a customer a, partner. You just never know.

    Use social media wisely

    Stop ignoring the power of social media when building relationships that will help your career. Social media has increasingly shown that opportunities are on image, direct message away. Use your online profiles as a way to start conversations by displaying your work, what you can offer and why people should connect with you.

    Making connections is only half the battle; you also have to take steps to keep the relationship going. Even if you aren’t job hunting, strive to reach out to people regularly. A simple hi or an update on your career will keep you top of mind. While networking may present some challenges, always know your worth and enjoy the process of meeting new people and sharing your story.