Umbrella Company Employees keen to optimise their professional contracting careers may have mixed feelings about networking; however, new research from EY suggests that most professionals consider networking to be crucial, and preferably in person rather than online.

The study comprises a poll of 750 UK business professionals and a white paper on networking by Cass Business School’s visiting professor of networking, Julia Hobsbawm. Despite the increasing availability of virtual networking tools, face-to-face networking was engaged in by almost twice as many respondents (68%) as online methods such as social media platforms (36%). 71% of professionals who network on a face-to-face basis rated the process as “very valuable”.

Commenting on the divergence, Professor Hobsbawm said: “In the sea of digital overload, people crave human connection, either one-to-one or one-to-many. The ability to connect with another human, to develop trust, understanding, faith, belief and a relationship, happens best face-to-face.”

The study also found that around one-quarter of those polled (24%) do not currently network at all, while 53% do not consider it a professional skill ‒ a state of indifference that Professor Hobsbawm believes adds up to a missed opportunity.

She explained that networking occurs at every level of a professional’s career; indeed, it should be undertaken if the individual’s career is to be optimised, as research suggests that networking is directly linked to productivity.

EY’s managing partner for talent in the UK & Ireland, Liz Bingham, added: “The so-called ‘soft’ skills, such as relationship building and time management, have to become core skills in today’s workplace. They are key attributes we look for in our new recruits.”

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