It can be surprising for professionals entering the workforce to realize that grades and knowledge is not the ultimate definer of your success. Not everything you learn can be taken from textbooks, lectures, or endless hours practicing your tasks. There are other steps and skills that are needed in order to reach the success level you have set out to attain – and one of the important steps is professional networking.
Now, networking does not mean attending social events solely, or just sharing experiences and knowledge. It is about building those trustworthy relationships with people in the industry that you are aiming to be part of, or that you already have joined. In a study conducted by Pepperdine’s Graziadio School of Business Management, 40 percent of respondents identified their current positions through either an existing network or the referral of a colleague or friend. These statistics have been rated higher than sharing your resumes directly with a human resources department or a response to a job posting, which emphasizes the impact that networking has on the final decisions made by recruiters.
Furthermore, if we examine the higher levels of organizations, such as executives and C-suite members, the reliance on networking consumes a higher percentage of their time, which underscores the value of such activity for the growth of an individual in an organization. The study showed that 58 percent of respondents believed there was a significant, substantial or dramatic increase in their income due to professional networking. A relationship can be seen when it comes to embracing leadership roles and professional networking.
As a young professional or a student, you will face a lot of challenges at first in identifying the correct crowd and network in them. There is no golden rule to follow when it comes to networking, but there are a few hints that you can take into consideration from people who have been there:
- The earlier you start, the better. Do not wait until you finish university or a year in your job passes by; the earlier you start scanning networks and approaching other professionals, the quicker you will be able to identify where you fit, start building those relationships and benefit from them at an early stage.
- Social media, social media, social media. Your geographic location no longer needs to be a limiting factor when it comes to networking. These days, you can reach out to different professionals, from different cultures across all countries and spectrums. Use this opportunity to build an international network that will be an eye-opener to many opportunities and topics of interest. LinkedIn can be especially useful, so if you do not have a LinkedIn profile, it is time to consider creating one.
- Be an active member. Being part of a conference or a professional development event not only updates your knowledge, but it also provides you with the ability to introduce yourself to the community with whom you are attempting to build your network. Always keep an eye on the event or conference calendars for institutes and organizations of interest. Attending events and engaging with professionals plays an important role when it comes to introducing yourself to a professional network, but focus on building a trustworthy relationship, rather just having a good laugh with someone. There are several institutes and organizations that host events that you can attend and start building your network, such as ISACA’s international conferences and chapter events.
- Maintain the relationships. It is not enough to just build a network without remaining involved and in touch with people. You should stay in steady contact with the people you believe will have a role in your success. Networking is a continuous cycle throughout the phases of your career.
- Professional women’s networking. Gender barriers tend to be more common in certain male-dominated industry networks, such as IT. Nevertheless, recently, we have seen signs of progress. A study showed that women corporate networks have high voluntary participation, and that more senior women were significantly more likely than their junior peers to report positive behaviors such as driving change, helping and supporting. So, if you are a young female professional or a bright female student, put yourself out there, and start confidently building your network without having any barriers shadowing your goals.
Editor’s note: For more resources on this topic, including a podcast with further insights from Mais Barouqa, visit www.isaca.org/young-professionals.