What’s the Point of Networking, Anyway?

by: Shannon McNay

Networking gets a really bad rap sometimes. It can be time-consuming, annoying, and generally feel like an exercise in frustration.

So why do we do it?

Because networking can be vital to our career growth – and, frankly, because life is better with friends.

If you’ve been working as an entrepreneur, freelancer, or contractor, then you already know what a lonely endeavor it can be. These roles don’t give us the luxury of walking into an office and having people to talk to everyday. Sometimes we have that and sometimes we don’t, but it’s not a given the way it is in the corporate world.

So we end up isolated. And that’s not just potentially damaging to our business growth, it can also be really hard on us as people.

We all need people sometimes – especially when we’re doing creative work. Without people, we get stuck in our heads. We fail to think of new solutions to old problems. And, often, we beat ourselves up when things don’t go exactly as planned. Why?

Because creative work is hard. Running your own business is hard. When we have an office job, we are validated all day every day. Setting our alarm clock because we have somewhere to be is validation. Walking to our desk and having it sit there waiting for us, provided by a company, is validation. Having an inbox full of emails and requests is validation. All of it means that there is an entity that needs our work, our input. There is an entity that values what we have to give.

But when we start our own businesses, no one tells us we have to set an alarm and get up. No one gives us that desk we have sitting and waiting for us. No one’s beating down the door to make sure we meet our deadlines. It’s all on us. And that can open the door to massive amounts of self-doubt.

Is my work good enough? Is my work even valuable? What if I don’t get more clients? What if I’m handling my clients/business all wrong?

These questions are never-ending. They kill our momentum. Nothing can put an end to good work like these questions.  

Yes, networking is important from a business perspective. Networking means meeting new people, staying in touch with people we already know, and growing our potential pool of clients, referrals, and so on. But that’s not all networking is good for.

Networking helps us grow in our fields as well. Networking can help us do better in our business, networking can help us improve our craft, networking can pick us up when the self-doubt threatens to kick us down.

If you build a strong network around you, you don’t just get a lot of potential business – you get a support system that can help you grow and succeed both as a person and a professional. Does that seem like a waste of time?

Image Credit: Bino Storyteller

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