In my book,Your Personal Brand: Your Power Tool to Build Career Integrity, published last October via Amazon and CreateSpace, I offered my thoughts and recommendations in a chapter about networking. While I shared a lot about the "how to" of networking, I didn't spend a lot of time on the immense benefits of building your network.
A surprising number of professionals I speak to just don't understand how powerful it can be to have a strategic network of contacts. A large majority are also guilty of not leveraging the power of professional social media sites, most notably LinkedIn. Successfully cultivating and developing your network could mean the difference between perpetually applying for job openings and praying to make it to the interview stage or being fast-tracked for a job opening. Some successful professionals I know who have developed a strong personal brand have even had jobs created for them!
What's truly remarkable is that for the first time, your set of professional contacts actually can be quantified. In the past, your network and its value was mostly anecdotal, meaning your bosses and others could acknowledge the fact that you knew a lot of people, but no one had a clue as to its true value. Today with Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Hootsuite and other social media tools, your network and followers have numerical values and associated analytics that can be appraised.
Some of the many benefits of networking are:
• It is a very cost-effective marketing tool, at zero or very little expense to you.
• Networking referrals will typically generate more results than a cold call.
• More than 70 percent of all jobs are found through networking and introductions.
• Every person you meet has hundreds of contacts who can potentially become an extension of your own network.
• Don't forget the "six degrees of separation" principle: Anyone you want to meet or establish contact with is only six connections or less away from you.
In summary, if you want to add optimal value to your career, establish a strategic global network of contacts. The more conscientious and consistent you are about cultivating and developing this network, the more valuable you become as an employee, a candidate for employment and to recruiters. Knowing people and having strategic contacts around the world is a strong reinforcement of the professional value and experience you bring to the table.
Kevin Iwamoto is senior consultant at GoldSpring Consulting. You can follow him on Twitter @KevinIwamoto.