Networking nerves

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My father is in business, and even though I’m still in college, he’s always getting on me about networking. Every time I call home, he’s talking about how I should join clubs and go to events, reconnect with people from my summer internships, and so on. Is this really necessary while I’m still in school? I’m in tech, and I think my skills are what will get me jobs, not my ability to schmooze!

Your skills are certainly going to be important in your career, but they are not the only things that matter. While it might be nice to imagine that every hiring manager can easily find and hire the most qualified possible person, the fact is that hiring managers are human, and studies show that they are likely to end up hiring people with connections. This is not strictly about “schmoozing,” though: hiring is a very expensive process, and companies prefer the low-risk option of choosing a known quantity, like a person the boss has worked with before or a person that a valued employee vouches for. The result is that a stunning 85% of all open positions are filled through networking.

Networking happens everywhere. In fact, thanks to technology, it can happen even when you are far from the people with whom you are networking. Voice and video chat companies like Polycom are quick to point out incredible remote-work stories, and that is a good reminder that you can easily chat, email, or otherwise interact with your friends from internships (and new acquaintances you make through them) wherever you are – even if, like you, you are on a busy college campus and not in the working world yet at all!

When you are on the job, whether that is during the summer or after you graduate, you will find chances to network both inside and outside of your company. One in four professionals fails to network at all, so getting out there will quickly give you a leg up. And do not be afraid to approach people, because even those who do not network yet tend to wish they did: 41% of professionals (including those already networking) wish they did more networking. So collaborate in group projects at work, and volunteer to represent your company at trade shows – experts say networking is the number one reason to attend in-person events like these.

Networking can be an intimidating idea at first, but the statistics prove that your future fellow professionals want to network and know they should be doing it, so do not be afraid to approach them and put yourself out there. If you do, you will find that networking is a powerful tool in any industry, including tech. While your skills matter, experts agree that the statistics prove who you know matters in every industry. So hone one more set of skills – your networking skills – and get out there.

“It occurs to me that our survival may depend upon our talking to one another.” – Dan Simmons

Written by Martin J. Young, former correspondent of Asia Times.

 

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