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It's true — Utah's job market is doing very well, especially compared to other parts of the country that are still recovering from the economic impact of the global pandemic. As of May 2022, the Utah Department of Workforce Services reported a 3.5% job growth rate with unemployment sitting at just 2.0%.
These stats are encouraging for anyone currently on the hunt for a new job. However, it's important to note that when it comes to the professional working world, securing employment isn't — or at least shouldn't be — the ultimate endgame.
If you really want to thrive in your career, don't discount the importance of networking. Networking opportunities are all around you, even if you're not looking for a new position. Whether they're in the same line of work or not, forming connections with other professionals may be the single most important thing you can do for your career — and your future.
Here are seven reasons why you'll still want to build your professional network even in the currently booming job market:
Improve your soft skills
In the working world, employers look for both hard skills and soft skills. Hard skills refer to learned, technical skills that pertain to your chosen profession. Examples may be computer skills, typing speed, certifications or other technical abilities that would help you complete a certain job. Soft skills refer to a person's inherent personality traits, such as empathy, creativity and the ability to work well with others. And when it comes to finding a good job, don't discount the importance of those soft skills.
"Some employers may prefer to select candidates who have a stronger set of soft skills over hard skills, as soft skills are at times more difficult to develop," writes the Indeed Editorial Team.
Networking provides an opportunity to develop and demonstrate these soft skills as you forge relationships and connections with others in your field. If you want to build a reputation as a friendly person who's easy to work with, it never hurts to work on your people skills.
Make yourself stand out
Newsflash: A lot of people have resumes that look a lot like yours. They're educated, qualified and just as impressive on paper as the next guy. Getting your name out there and spending face time with others in your field is vital if you want to stand out from the competition.
Once you get your name out there, it opens up the door to further career opportunities you might not have even considered. When people are familiar with you and what you bring to the table, they may approach you with job openings that they think will be a good fit for your skill set. Imagine never having to hunt down a new position again because people are actively seeking you out!
Streamline your job search
Sure, you may be content in your current job, but someday you might want to make a career change — especially if you're close to age 39—the average age that most employees make a major career change. According to the career website Zippia, the average American worker goes through 12 jobs in their lifetime and middle-aged workers are the most likely group to make a major career change. When that time comes, it helps to have a diverse network of professionals who can connect you with job leads or put in a good word with a recruiter.
Getting out of your comfort zone and forging new connections may not be easy, but your self-esteem will grow through that experience. Learning from others and interacting with like-minded people in your profession can help you speak with more confidence when you're fielding questions from a top executive in your field. Interviews will be a piece of cake.
Create a support system
Getting ahead or securing that coveted promotion isn't the only object of networking. No matter what your job is, you'll likely experience setbacks and difficulties. When this happens, it helps to have a mentor or other professionals that you can turn to for support.
Boost your business knowledge and success
Networking isn't just for job seekers. It's for anyone who wants to grow and develop professionally. A good business owner knows that there are always new things to learn and they'll actively seek opportunities to learn from others in their industry.
"Networking helps you move forward and achieve your business goals and objectives," David McCready writes for LinkedIn. "It is a valuable way to learn from others, expand your knowledge, bring in investors and attract new customers. In short, networking helps your small business run smoothly as well as stay profitable in the long run."
Want more networking opportunities? Become a member of the Salt Lake Chamber
If you're looking for a prime opportunity to connect with other business professionals along the Wasatch Front, don't miss the Salt Lake Chamber's Member Orientation & Networking event on Thursday, Aug. 25. For both members and non-members, this is a great way to learn all about the benefits of a Chamber membership while you network with others. The Member Orientation also includes complimentary admission to the Chamber's Business After Hours event held on the same day. For more information, visit the Salt Lake Chamber website.