How Networking Can Save Your Career

Sometimes, even the most successful employees hit a career-related snag. Whether you come to find that you're trapped in a dead-end job, or wind up getting laid off due to circumstances outside your control, it's critical to revive your career as quickly as possible. And while you might think a strong resume or new certification will do the trick, in reality, the best thing you can do to save your career is to grow your business network and tap those connections.

Why network?

Networking is the art of building relationships that can strengthen your career, and open the doors to new opportunities. You'll hear a lot of people speak of the importance of networking these days, but there's tons of validity behind the trend. According to LinkedIn, between 2015 and 2016, 85% of jobs were filled via networking. And that's pretty huge.

It's often the case that, when new job opportunities arise, they're filled internally at companies, or through referrals from existing employees. Why? Because it's less time-consuming and more cost-effective to hire based on recommendations than it is to sift through candidates blindly. If you're looking for work, and know someone whose company has an opening, you might get a shot at an interview before the rest of the general public, and if all goes well, the job could be yours -- even if there's technically a better candidate out there somewhere.

Just as importantly, if someone you know recommends you for an opening, you have a much stronger chance of getting your foot in the door, even if your resume isn't any more impressive than the other 52 resumes a given company is looking at. Along these lines, if a company interviews you, as well as several other viable candidates for a given role, and someone internal endorses you, there's a good chance you'll be the one to get that offer, even if everyone else in the bunch is similarly qualified.

The thing to realize about networking is that personal references tend to carry far more weight than words on a resume. Furthermore, while a job interview is certainly a good opportunity to highlight your own value, it's still just a brief 60-minute snapshot of who you are.

But if a business contact who knows you can vouch for your work ethic, effectiveness, and dedication, the company he or she works for is likely to take that information to heart. That's why, if your career is in a rut, the best thing to do is start reaching out to your network of contacts and see what hidden opportunities are lurking.

Building your network

Of course, your ability to network depends on the professional contacts you have. But rather than focus on establishing a network with more contacts, you're better off finding the right contacts -- namely, people who work at the companies you might want to work at someday, and folks who can offer industry insight based on their experience and skills.

If you're seeking to expand your network, try attending more industry meetings, conferences, and other such events that allow you to mingle with new faces outside of your own company. If you never branch out, you're going to get stuck in the same circle of people. Along these lines, if your industry has any professional groups or associations to join, it may be worth whatever fee is involved.

Also, don't forget that business relationships can emerge from social ones. If you have friends or neighbors who work in your industry, or the one you're trying to break into, use those relationships to your advantage.

Furthermore, since you can't always get out and meet people face to face, don't discredit the value of making connections online. If you don't already have a LinkedIn profile, create one immediately, find people you know, and ask at least a few them to provide written endorsements. It's an easy way to passively build your network, but an effective one nonetheless.

Once you meet these new people to add to your network, whether online or in person, engage them, ask questions, and aim to learn more about what they do and how they might serve as resources later on. That said, resist the urge to ask someone you've only known for five minutes about potential job opportunities. If you do, you'll risk coming off as pushy, desperate, or both.

Like all relationships, business relationships need to be cultivated. But if you're willing to put in the time, the upside could be huge.

The $16,122 Social Security bonus most retirees completely overlook If you're like most Americans, you're a few years (or more) behind on your retirement savings. But a handful of little-known "Social Security secrets" could help ensure a boost in your retirement income. For example: one easy trick could pay you as much as $16,122 more... each year! Once you learn how to maximize your Social Security benefits, we think you could retire confidently with the peace of mind we're all after. Simply click here to discover how to learn more about these strategies.

The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.