Most seasoned business professionals agree that networking is an incredibly significant part of their success, but many people just starting out have not grasped the importance of joining a networking group or how to make the most of their time, according to Jan Plutzer, COO at Apcera. During her career, she also discovered that cultivating a collection of both informal and formal networking groups was even more beneficial to her than having an individual mentor in her field.
Using an informal combination of business partners, employees, bosses, and current and former co-workers, she was able to bounce her ideas and problems off of a diverse group of people that had a keen understanding of her background. The best groups will not merely agree with you at every turn but rather provide brutal honesty and ask tough questions to uncover the best way of handling a situation. Her group helped her navigate challenging career choices such as leaving a prestigious job to join a startup as well as merely acting as a sounding board for new ideas and directions.
Many different types of formal networking groups exist that can fulfill a variety of roles for a young professional. Jan recommends joining groups with others in your field or that share your title to gain access to the most relevant experience. Similarly, special groups for women or minorities can help provide an added layer of support for people that might feel left out of more traditional groups. If there isn’t a group in your area, then creating one can be a great option that only requires one extra trusted professional to get started.
Importantly, just joining a networking group or participating in a few events is not enough to gain all of the benefits. To reach its full potential, networking requires effort to maintain and build new relationships as well as to provide benefits to the other members of the group that will be relying on you for the same support.