Whatever your role and no matter your industry, networking connects you with suppliers, potential customers, other professionals and mentors. But what are the tangible benefits of networking, how do you do it successfully and where do you go for help?

In this article, we explore business networking and discover how an MBA helps students expand their networking skills and their business networks.

What is networking in business, and why is it important?

Business networking is the process of establishing and maintaining professional relationships. It involves interacting with peers, industry leaders, potential clients and other professionals to exchange information, share wisdom and identify opportunities for collaboration.

You can grow your network by attending events like industry conferences, chambers of commerce get-togethers, business club functions, workshops, talks or via social media platforms like LinkedIn. The goal is to create and maintain a support system of contacts that can help you succeed. It’s not just about collecting business cards. Effective networking helps you:

  • gain advice from experienced professionals
  • connect with potential clients, partners or investors
  • enhance your professional reputation among your peers
  • uncover new opportunities with unexpected connections

Jane Jenkins, the Business and Operations Manager at Earbus Foundation in Western Australia, understands the benefits of networking. “Networking has definitely not been one of my strengths in the past, but I have worked on it over the last year, and the benefits have been well worth it,” she says.

“I have been part of a networking group, WA Leaders, for the past nine months and have made some very strong connections with peers and industry leaders. Working in the not-for-profit (NFP) sector, networking has given me the opportunity to gain valuable information and assistance without the expensive outlay of courses.”

When building a network, look to connect with a variety of people who can provide different forms of support. You can share insights and market trends with industry peers and competitors. Mentors and experienced professionals will offer advice, while you can pass on your knowledge to mentees. Industry leaders can enhance your visibility and provide inspiration, while potential customers will help you refine your offering. Service providers can help you reach new partners.

Types of networks

You might also find it helpful to access separate networks. These could include:

  • operational networks, which give you the opportunity to connect with internal stakeholders plus external connections such as suppliers and distributors to support your business activities and ensure its smooth operation
  • personal networks of people from outside your business, which can connect you with professional development opportunities and empower you with information that supports your personal development
  • strategic networks of professionals and other connections, which help you take a bigger picture view of your business and career and provide direction and perspective on your direction

Spend some time and energy cultivating and improving your networks, and you will undoubtedly see the benefits of personal growth, idea generation and more sales in your business.

The advantages of business networking

For those involved in businesses in all industries, there are many advantages of networking. Here are our top 10.

  1. “Networking is essential to build relationships,” says Jenkins. Whether you’re a business owner, a senior manager or you’re just starting out in the business world, relationships are everything in business. “When you meet with like-minded people, they can keep you accountable to your goals and guide you to achieve them.”
  2. Networking can generate solid leads. You’re more likely to buy from a business you know or partner with a professional you’ve met before. That’s why networking turns into real leads and sales. “It also builds contacts for partnerships and joint ventures,” Jenkins adds.
  3. When you’re working hard to establish your career or grow your business, you can end up in a bubble. Networking lets you get out and see what’s happening in your industry. “There’s also the potential when networking to share ideas and information on the latest industry trends,” says Jenkins.
  4. Feeling a bit stuck at work? If you need to rekindle your passion or find your drive, hearing other professionals talk about their challenges and wins will often give you the confidence to do something new or motivate you to keep going.
  5. Networking also gives you the opportunity to talk about and reflect on your successes. Sometimes, it’s only when you’re talking to others that you can really see how far you’ve come or how well you’re doing.
  6. Hearing other people’s stories can give you a fresh perspective on your own career.
  7. Talking through your challenges and successes can inspire others, and you might help other people realise a dream or overcome a hurdle. While this person’s gratitude might also mean they’ll help you out in the future, it’s also good to help others without any expectations that you’ll get something in return.
  8. We know that positive relationships are good for your physical and mental health. Forming those social connections at networking events can be good for you, combating loneliness and adding to your sense of worth.
  9. If you’re an introvert, it can be tough to establish those connections. Networking does sometimes feel like work, but it should be enjoyable, and if you do enough of it, you could actually have fun.
  10. On the job hunt? Networking connects you with employers, allows you to discover opportunities and helps you get to know what people are like before you say yes to a job offer.

How to network successfully

Not sure your networking skills are up to scratch? There are ways to get better and network like a pro. Here are some tips.

  • “Attend networking events around your sector,” says Jenkins. “Reach out to people you have met and make contact, even if it is just to say hello and ask, how was your week.”
  • Set yourself a goal for the event, such as meeting at least five new people. But remember, you’re there to make contacts not to do a deal. So don’t try to make a sale or pitch a new idea.
  • “Speak to at least four to six people at the event and listen to their story,” advises Jenkins. “By all means, tell your story, but by listening, you’ll pick up information that may be of use to you and your business.”
  • Be friendly and move around the room. Be a gracious guest to your hosts, and if you see someone who looks unsure or alone, go up and introduce yourself.
  • Don’t be shy about taking notes. For example, if someone tells you about a great supplier, pull out your notebook or phone and jot down their details and the supplier’s information. After meeting a handful of people, you’ll find that names and details can blur, so you’ll be glad you wrote things down.
  • Follow up with the people you’ve met by connecting on LinkedIn or sending them an email thanking them for the advice they gave or the time they spent chatting with you.
  • “Join LinkedIn groups that are relevant to your industry or position in your organisation. Reach out to your connections when you need something and ask!” says Jenkins.

How an MBA can improve your networking skills

Jenkins, who is a few units away from completing her online MBA, has enjoyed networking opportunities during her studies. She has turned to her fellow students for support and to exchange ideas.

“Some assignments have been group assignments, which have involved early morning coffee meetings to discuss progress and ideas. I have kept in touch with several of my fellow students and followed their progress. I still bounce concepts and ideas off some of them today.”

The courses offered by MBA Discovery’s university partners are designed to enhance students’ networking skills.

As part of James Cook University’s MBA, students are guided by academics with real-world industry experience. Southern Cross University has a strong focus on industry and community collaboration, while RMIT University’s course features an interactive, supportive online environment where students can build meaningful networks.

Students of Victoria University’s MBA participate in collaborative online sessions, where discussion and debate are encouraged.

Take your networking to the next level

Discover the benefits of networking and enhance your skills by studying an MBA. Speak to a Student Enrolment Advisor today about networking, career advancement and how to find an MBA course that aligns with your goals.

Speak to a Student Enrolment Advisor

Whether you’re ready to enrol, or just have a quick question, simply fill out the enquiry form below to speak directly to the university’s enrolment team. They will be able to guide you through:

Course eligibility and recognition of prior learning

Course structure and what you will study

Next intakes and how to apply

Fees and time commitments