Networking is the process of sharing advice, information, and referrals. Your network not only consists of the people you already know, but is also the active process of consciously expanding your circle of contacts to include other people you identify as potential sources of advice, information, and referrals.

Why is networking important? Because in the scope of career navigation, people like to hire people they know. Research has shown that job candidates referred by a current employee or by a contact of a hiring manager are more likely to land the job. This is because someone that has been referred has been prescreened by an existing employee who is putting his or her reputation on the line with every referral. Statistics also show that referrals tend to fit in with the team culture and stay in a position longer, and the time to hire a referral is shorter than for outside candidates. For all of these reasons internal referrals are a better investment for the company.

When networking, it is essential to have a clear pitch to describe yourself: Who are you? Where have you been? Where are you going? If you are making a request for assistance, make sure that you are clear about what you need and that the request is reasonable.

Also remember that networking is a two-way street. Successful networkers give more often than they take, and they make themselves available to others. A successful networker also listens more often than they talk. By asking questions and showing interest in the other person, you are able to create a connection that results in a lasting dialogue and strong network contact.

Check out our networking tips and tools to assist you in moving forward with your career.