The One Thing Successful Professionals Do to Get Ahead

Why you need to make networking a priority – even when you’re employed.

Networking isn’t just for job seekers. In fact, the most successful professionals are often superb networkers. With that said, it can be difficult to make networking a priority when you’re happily employed and other, more pressing activities are competing for calendar space. If your business cards have begun to gather dust, it’s time to brush them off and get back into your networking groove.

Need more incentive? Here are four reasons professionals at the pinnacle of their careers continuously network (and why you should, too!).

To sharpen your skills

The best way to maintain a long, prosperous career is to never stop learning. Many professional associations provide professional development opportunities for their members that focus on the softer skills, such as leadership or public speaking. You can also attend relevant tradeshows and conferences, which often offer seminars and certification programs to their attendees. Bonus: since these groups and events are related to your work, you can make a business case to your employer to fund your membership dues and registration fees. Just be sure to share your newfound knowledge with your colleagues so you’re bringing that value back to the entire team.

To stay on top of trends

If you want to get ahead, you need to stay on top of the latest trends in your field. But you don’t necessarily need to trek across the country to the big annual conference in order to do this. Consider joining a Meetup group or other local association for your industry. These groups are likely to get together more often, giving you plenty of opportunities to meet new people on a regularly basis and keep a better pulse on your industry. You can also network online by joining and actively participating in LinkedIn groups.

To meet a mentor

The right mentor can shape your professional skills, teach you the ins and outs of your industry, help you navigate corporate politics, overcome adversity, and introduce you to the right people and resources to advance your career. The more involved you become in your industry, the more likely you are to find the perfect person to become your mentor or career advocate. Remember, networking isn’t restricted to those outside of your company. If you work in a large organization, make it a point to connect with colleagues from other divisions.

Prepare for the unknown

While you may feel secure in your current position, the sad truth is that you never know when you may need to find another job. From company acquisitions to changes in leadership or business structure, there are a number of reasons why you may suddenly find yourself unemployed or desperate to jump ship. The best time to build your network is when you’re not immediately looking for favors. Take the time now to build meaningful relationships with those in your professional circle so if or when the time comes, you can call on those connections for referrals, insight into job leads, and other valuable information.

As the summer winds down, start touching base with your existing network and mentally preparing for a fall season full of new networking opportunities. Your career will thank you.