By Keven Dronen

The dreaded and often fear-inducing word “networking” gets thrown around on a regular basis. If you have recently found yourself in a job transition, you’ve probably heard your career coach start every other sentence with the “Power of Networking” chant. He or she likely encouraged you to spend the highest percentage of your job-seeking time on networking rather than online postings and recruiters, because statistically most job connections are created through networking.

It’s important to address networking angst head-on, starting by acknowledging this key point: we have all been networking our entire lives. We network for things like finding a new physician, buying a home, choosing a restaurant or travel destination, or selecting an enjoyable book or movie. Often this entails reaching out to family, friends, and contacts, which then leads to referrals to strangers who may be able to help. Most of us have become quite adept at networking for personal things. The question, then, is: why does the thought of networking for a new job cause us to break into a sweat?

One possible explanation is that we aren’t always aware of how networking affects career success. Whether working for a large, international enterprise or a small, privately-held organization, we build relationships with colleagues, trainers, speakers, vendors, meeting facilitators, clients, and consultants. We have opportunities to meet, work amongst, team with, and solicit help from numerous people, all offering different skill sets and valuable ideas. Whether consciously or subconsciously, these contacts become part of our professional network.

How does this translate into recognizing your network as your most precious asset for uncovering new professional opportunities? Those who know you, who have worked alongside you while experiencing business wins and project completions, are in a unique position to advocate for you. Their collective knowledge of industries, companies, opportunities and people, combined with their willingness to vouch for your ability, can be invaluable.

Whether you are actively searching or casually following the market, today’s job opportunities surface in a myriad of ways. Jobs are no longer filled only through postings. In today’s workplaces, opportunities arise because someone is impressed by your abilities, and they choose to share your name or suggest a connection. If you make the right impression, you might find yourself firmly on a hiring manager’s radar for a role that has yet to be established, or a position that is soon to be vacated. Your network acts as a system of eyes and ears, helping you remain in tune with the industry and holding the key to opening the doors of career opportunity.

Here are a few additional thoughts to help you overcome any remaining uncertainty regarding embracing the power of networking:

  • Understand how networking is a vital part of all our personal and professional lives. It is not just to be done during a job transition, but continually.
  • View networking as a chance to meet, connect, and learn without expectations of a specific outcome.
  • Building your network requires reciprocation. Offer your assistance and act as a resource to support and connect others.