What Is Networking?

Networking is the exchange of information and ideas among people with a common profession or special interest, usually in an informal social setting.

Networking often begins with a single point of common ground.

Networking is used by professionals to expand their circles of acquaintances, to find out about job opportunities in their fields, and to increase their awareness of news and trends in their fields or in the greater world. (The term computer networking refers to linking multiple devices so that they can readily share information and software resources.)

Key Takeaways

  • Networking is used by professionals to widen their circles of acquaintances, find out about job opportunities, and to increase their awareness of news and trends in their fields.
  • Business owners may network to develop relationships with people and companies they may do business with in the future.
  • Professional networking platforms provide an online location for people to engage with other professionals, join groups, post blogs, and share information.

Understanding Networking

Networking often begins with a single point of common ground. The most obvious is a professional affiliation, such as stock brokers, but some people find effective networking opportunities in a college alumni group, a church or synagogue social group, or a private club.

For professionals, the best networking opportunities may occur at trade shows, seminars, and conferences, which are designed to attract a large crowd of like-minded individuals.

Networking helps a professional keep up with current events in the field, and develops relationships that may boost future business or employment prospects. Needless to say, it also provides opportunities to help other people find jobs, make connections and catch up on the news.

Business Networking

Small business owners network to develop relationships with people and companies they may do business with in the future. These connections help them establish rapport and trust among people in their own communities.

Successful business networking involves regularly following up with contacts to exchange valuable information that may not be readily available outside the network.

Online Networking

Professional networking platforms such as LinkedIn provide an online location for people to engage with other professionals, join groups, post blogs, and share information. And, of course, they provide a place to post a resume that can be seen by prospective employers, to search for jobs, or to identify job candidates.

These days, a business-to-business customer pipeline can be developed almost entirely through the use of a social networking site. Online networking forum allows professionals to demonstrate their knowledge and connect with like-minded people.

LinkedIn is the largest professional network, but there are many others. Some cater to particular subsets of people, such as Black Business Women Online. Others have a different focus, such as MeetUp, which encourages its members to meet in person off-site. Lunchmeet is just what it sounds like: It's a mobile app that identifies folks in your field who are available locally for a meet-up.