While majority of people recognise that networking is beneficial to their career, most of them resort to it when it comes to job hunting – disregarding the fact that connecting with other professionals can help with every aspect of their career development. Rather than reaching out to other professionals only in times of crisis, it’s essential to invest in these relationships throughout the course of your career.

That being said, in order to network you have to first offer value and help people in your network with no expectation of any reciprocation. Over time that relation will flourish after which you can ask for something of value in return.

The old saying “no man is an Island” itself proves why a collective effort needs to be made to guarantee professional success. Networking, if done the right way, can give you a competitive edge in every stage of your career. In fact, a great number of individuals largely attribute their professional success to the strong networking channels they have created over time.

Let’s look at three compelling reasons how expanding your contacts can work in your favour:

1. Bolsters Your Self-Confidence

A great leader seems to have an innate ability to connect with strangers in any situation and find common ground with them, making networking look effortless. Effective networking, however, is a learned skill and it cannot be acquired overnight. So, it’s understandable if you’re not comfortable initiating a conversation or if you don’t know how to keep it going if you manage to strike up one.

With a little work and some dedicated practice, you can adopt new techniques of breaking the ice and get better at it. Remember to be natural. Instead of trying to imitate someone every day and trying to be someone you won’t recognise in the mirror, just be yourself.

Focus on your goal and what you’re trying to achieve i.e. connecting and building a network. You’re not here to promote your business and its products or services nor to make a sales pitch. You’re here to connect, so stick to it and let your true personality shine through.

2. Allows an Exchange of Fresh Ideas

While most of us try to stay up to date with the current trends and developments in our field via reading up on industry news or continuing our education, there’s a stock of knowledge that one can acquire by merely staying connected with other business professionals in the industry.

You network can be a wellspring of novel ideas and perspectives to help you in your role. And being a beneficiary of these innovative and fresh ideas gives you an opportunity to introduce new practices in your workplace as well as gain new insights that you may not have otherwise thought of.

Likewise, offering valuable ideas and exchanging information on challenges and experiences with others is an excellent way to build your reputation as an innovative thinker.

3. Opens Doors to New Business Opportunities

If you excel at networking, you can acquire new business leads and establish rapport and trust with the people who know you. As an entrepreneur, networking is one of the most valuable business building tools you have in your arsenal.

When you know how to network effectively, you can create a powerful circle of influence, one that will translate into the growth both of your company and yourself. This circle of influence may be a group of leaders who are influencers, disruptors or trailblazers, many of whom can propel your business to the next level.

However, it is important to communicate professionally when you follow up on business leads. Don’t pester or badger people for business as it is likely to drive people away. Be mindful of timing and show common courtesy when following up with contacts.