A professional network can provide support during a job search and help with career development, even for those who are already in the workforce. It’s not just about finding a new job, however; a networking strategy can be helpful in any stage of your career, from securing a promotion to starting a business and everything in between.

Many people feel uncomfortable when it comes to networking, especially since it often involves interacting with strangers or coworkers. Some also worry that they have nothing to offer and will take from their network without giving anything in return. However, the benefits of networking can far outweigh any initial discomfort.

Networking is the process of building relationships with others, both inside and outside your current sphere of influence, in order to discover opportunities and potential business deals. According to a study by LinkedIn, 80% of professionals consider networking important for their career success. Networking can also expose you to a wealth of different career opportunities that may not be available to you otherwise.

Whether you are looking for a new job, seeking investors for your business, or simply trying to find out more about the field in which you work, networking is the best way to get connected. Having connections in your network can help you to find these opportunities, and the right connection may be able to refer you for an interview or give you information about a position that isn’t publicly advertised.

In addition to providing access to career and business opportunities, networking can also make you more visible in your profession. When you start making connections and talking to people about what you do, word will spread and before you know it, people will be reaching out to you for advice or to connect on professional or social occasions. Networking can also allow you to develop your personal brand, which can help you stand out from the crowd and be more memorable to potential clients.

Another benefit of networking is that it can provide you with a sense of belonging and purpose. Research from Shawn Anchor, author of The Happiness Advantage, shows that feeling a sense of community is vital to your mental health. Meeting with like-minded people can also provide you with a break from the daily grind of your work and give you a chance to interact with other professionals who might have a different perspective on the challenges you face at work. In addition, networking can also lead to lifelong friendships.