For many people, networking can feel like something of a confusing concept. We often hear in career advice columns and industry forums such as TED Talks about how crucial a skilled networking has become in recent years, but it is rare that we actually get to hear a detailed description about what exactly constitutes good networking. Fortunately, the process of building a network is a skill that anyone can pick up with a bit of practice, and with a spirit of genuineness and helpfulness, the process can even allow you to help other professionals within your area of business. Here are just a few reasons why adding networking to your business portfolio could be one of the best decisions you make in 2019.

1. You Might Help Other People in the Future
For many people, the concept of networking is a turn-off because they believe that is asking for help is immodest or even selfish. However, networking that only serves to benefit oneself isn’t good networking, to begin with: Indeed, if we’re sacrificing our personal values in order to network, we probably aren’t making a very good impression anyway, as anyone who has ever felt used by a social climber knows. A good exercise while networking, therefore, is to try to see how much can help other people in your industry achieve their goals. Chances are that if you can genuinely help others solve their problems, you’ll be seen as someone that others want to help also.

2. Personal References are Highly Valued
If you’ve ever heard the old saying that everyone is six degrees of separation from everyone else in the world, you probably can see why having a network of people in your industry would be helpful: To wit, if someone you know becomes aware of a job opening in your field before it is listed on job boards, even if that person is managing remote workers living abroad in a different state or country, your chances of successfully applying to that job are magnified enormously if they know you even through social networks such as Facebook or LinkedIn. Moreover, a hiring manager or other person in a leadership position within a company will likely value a sincere personal reference from someone they already know more than they will an anonymous job application; in other words, having a trusted employee who can vouch for our ability to do a job well is one of the greatest introductions we can have to a company we’d like to work for.

3. Make Job Hunting Easier in the Future
As anyone knows who has ever been laid off, seeking employment without a network is a difficult proposition that often involves hundreds of applications and numerous dissatisfying and unsuccessful job interviews in the bargain. Fortunately, a strong network can really come in handy when work is otherwise scarce, and as we saw earlier, a personal recommendation from a current employee can go a long way towards helping us land an interview with a company that otherwise might see us as just another one of a thousand resumes they’ve received in the last month.

4. Getting Your Own Business Off the Ground
If you’re the type of entrepreneur who one day wants to get their own business off the ground, a personal network can be a fantastic resource to draw on to begin the process of finding clients. For example, recent law school grads who are interested in “hanging their own shingle” (that is, starting their own legal practice) will often find that personal recommendations from their network can really get the ball rolling on a roster of clients who can build a business.

While it is normal to feel reluctant at times to put in the effort needed to build a professional network, especially if you’re shy or simply find the concept of “schmoozing” off-putting, the truth is that networking doesn’t have to feel like a chore or an activity in which we have to be untrue to ourselves. In fact, by being yourself and showing others that you’re a reliable person and a hard-worker, you’ll be a far more effective networker than you will if you put up a false or insincere front. Remember, with a positive attitude and a willingness to extend yourself beyond your comfort zone, there is nothing you can’t accomplish. And that is networking done right!