The Importance of Networking and the Impact it’s had on my Career

Networking is often a term that people overcomplicate or feel uncomfortable doing yet it is undervalued in terms of what it means and how it can not only enhance your career, but your life. Webster Dictionary defines networking as “the exchange of information or services among individuals, groups, or institutions, specifically, the cultivation of productive relationships for employment or business.” 

After being raised and attending college in Iowa, I was fortunate to start my career in Chicago having very few connections in the area. To jumpstart building my network, I turned to volunteering as an easy way to connect with individuals outside of my job. Alongside my efforts to get to know people outside of my organization, I also focused on networking internally. As a fresh college graduate, joining the workforce is intimidating. The best way I found to connect with my seasoned colleagues was by always offering to help anyone, at any time, without seeking personal reward or recognition. This reputation garnered the respect and trust of my team and eventually got me promoted into a leadership role, which was never my initial intention, but was the ultimate outcome. 

When my wife and I started our family, we made the decision to move back home to Iowa. Having been raised in Des Moines, I had already established and kept a solid network of family and friends that I could rely on. I found Palmer Group through my brother who had heard about an open position, so I applied. Yes… family is an important part of your network and can certainly impact your career! 

As I began my role at Palmer Group our company founder, Austin Palmer, encouraged me to find new ways to meet people. I joined a breakfast club with some high school friends, attended local charity events, volunteered to coach my kids’ sports teams, and simply showed up to a variety of community events. While this was crucial to extending my network, most importantly, I was intentional about building relationships at Palmer Group. Throughout my career I’ve focused just as much effort into relationships with my colleagues as I have with community members, because my coworkers are the people I spend a lot of my time with -- and I work with some amazing people who I truly enjoy knowing and who I care about. 

While in-person networking is important, online networking has evolved to help grow and foster connections and can make an impact on your career. However, I believe networking through social media is only as valuable as the work you put into your in-person relationships. As you scroll through posts and updates online, from my experience, those individuals with whom I have a personal relationship are the ones invested in my content and bring the most engagement.  

Over the past 25 years of my career, I have met some of the most incredible people through internal and external networking. These relationships have given me valuable advice and mentorship from amazing business leaders. There's no doubt having a network to reach out to when needed has made me a better person and has gotten me to where I am now professionally. A network like this is not built overnight and it won't happen if you don't show up and are intentional about relationships.  

To me, networking can be simplified to any work or life opportunity if you are intentional and genuine. Be willing to do things that aren’t always in your comfort zone. Be willing to get to know someone new. Be willing to share your expertise or help without seeking personal gain. Doing something as simple as saying hello to your colleague across the office, introducing yourself to the other parents on the sidelines of your kid’s sporting event, volunteering for your favorite charity, attending a community event, etc. Every interaction could impact your life and career in ways that you cannot imagine.   

Remember, people do business with people they know, like, and trust. Be that person others like and trust because you are willing to show up and because you are willing to genuinely get to know others.  

Author: David Leto, President and CEO