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Authentic Networking | What Is It And Why Does It Matter?

A card that says, "Hello" on it.

This week, we’re talking about networking. Each day, we’ll share advice and resources on how to grow, engage, and support your network.

When I facilitate workshops about landing a career in the nonprofit sector, I like to ask participants what they think of when they hear the word “networking.” For some, the word itself is enough to induce anxiety and sweaty palms as they imagine awkward conversations with confident strangers. For others, networking calls to mind visions of cocktail parties, relentless small talk, and schmoozing. The word “inauthentic” comes up a lot.

Yes, networking can sound like a drag. But when I ask people to recall the last time they connected two friends who were each looking for a roommate, or shared an article about climate change with an eco-conscious former colleague, people hardly even recognize these as networking activities. Networking is really just the art of engaging with your communities. It’s sharing information, ideas, and contacts. Networking is distinctly not lying, schmoozing, or taking more than you give. If you feel inauthentic when you’re networking, you’re doing it wrong.

Why does networking matter?

The Department of Labor has estimated that around 70% of jobs and vacancies are either unadvertised or filled via someone previously known to the employer (for information about the source of this oft-quoted claim, check out this blog entry from Jobfully). The more you make use of your network, the greater your chances are of finding out about an unpublished vacancy and of using a personal connection to stand out amongst a large pool of applicants.

So, networking matters. A lot. Especially when it comes to finding and landing a job.

But the social capital that comes with a healthy, cultivated network is useful for more than just finding a job. It’s also great for professional development opportunities, finding clients, gaining exposure for your cause, finding a mentor, diversifying the information you take in, and creating a sense of security.

Oh, and social connections also account for how most of us meet our romantic partners, but that’s a story for another blog.

So, how do I do it?

Stay tuned to this blog. In the coming series, we’ll provide a framework for discovering who is in your network (it’s bigger than you think!), a toolkit for both formal and informal networking (while still being your authentic self!), and strategies for strengthening your network over time.

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