How important is networking for career success?

“After two decades of successfully applying the power of relationships in my own life and career, I’ve come to believe that connecting is one of the most important business – and life – skill sets you’ll ever learn. Why? Because, flat out, people do business with people they know and like. Careers – in every imaginable field – work the same way.”
— Keith Ferrazzi, Author of Never Eat Alone

Many business books and careers advice websites claim that networking is essential for career success.1 It’s something that many job-hunters think they should be doing, but is it actually helpful? The evidence suggests yes.

Birds_networking

There have been several studies that show more workers find out about new jobs through their personal network than any other method.2 For example, a study of workers in the Quebec provincial government3 found that 42.7% of the 2553 people in the study had found the job through personal contacts despite the government’s efforts to formalise the application process. An unpublished study4 of 1780 people in the Philadelphia area found that 56% of those who weren’t self employed got their current job with significant help from another person.

A longitudinal study that questioned people on their networking behaviours and then recorded their salary over three years found that networking was related to salary growth.5 There is also some evidence that you’re more likely to find a job through your acquaintances than through close friends.6 Also, often as you become more senior in an organisation, networking becomes more important as your productivity relies more on managing people and bringing in business through contacts.

Though more evidence is needed, this shows that networking is a key skill for career success.

What this means for you:

Key recommendation:

  • Learn more about networking from people who do it well and then go out and do it. Never Eat Alone is the most useful book we’ve come across on networking in a non-creepy way. Blogger and entrepreneur Ramit Sethi has a lot of good material on networking, e.g. this, and this

And remember:

  • Don’t rely exclusively on impersonal methods of finding jobs, such as through websites – many jobs are found through personal contacts.
  • Test out cultivating acquaintanceships with a variety of people to see if you gain a usefully wider insight about the world, and especially about the job market. Get to know people who are higher up the career ladder than you – they can provide valuable advice and help.

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References:


  1. e.g. “networking is one of the most important things you can do for your career” — Ramit Sethi or “The big plus of networking is that it can incrase our chances of not only finding a job, but also of changing industry, or of staying in a similar industry and changing roles, perhaps from operations to sales or from administration to technical support. Networking can opun us up to a hidden world that cannot be found in newspapers or on notice boards.” — p. 144 of Job Hunting 3.0 
  2. Granovetter, Mark S. “The strength of weak ties.” American journal of sociology (1973): 1360-1380. p. 1371. 
  3. Summarised in Granovetter, Mark. “The strength of weak ties: A network theory revisited.” Sociological theory 1.1 (1983): 201-233. p. 205 
  4. Summarised in Granovetter, Mark. “The strength of weak ties: A network theory revisited.” Sociological theory 1.1 (1983): 201-233. p. 206 
  5. Wolff, Hans-Georg, and Klaus Moser. “Effects of networking on career success: A longitudinal study.” University of Erlangen-Nurenburg, Labor and Socio-Economic Research Center (LASER) (2008). 
  6. Granovetter, Mark S. “The strength of weak ties.” American journal of sociology (1973): 1360-1380. p. 1371. and Granovetter, Mark. “The strength of weak ties: A network theory revisited.” Sociological theory 1.1 (1983): 201-233. p. 206.