What’s your secret weapon when it comes to your career?

If you’re feeling unsure, there’s certainly one fail-proof way to impact your career for the long-term — develop and maintain a vast network of contacts. While you may have originally been prompted to build your network during your job search, a large pool of professional contacts has more to offer than just connections to job openings.

The benefits to establishing a strong network for your career are seemingly endless. Here are just a few to consider if you’re looking to boost your career with the foundation of a networking:

1) Guidance

Whether you’re just entering the workforce or you’re a veteran executive, guidance is something you should never be short on. Building and maintaining a network of industry contacts is one simple way to ensure a continued level of guidance throughout your career. It’s up to you to decide how to use your network to gain insight.

The need for guidance throughout your career seems to be highly understated. You may be considering a career change or the potential for a promotion — these circumstances are sometimes more easily solved with careful help from others. While some may choose to develop professional mentor-mentee relationships within their network, others may find a level of guidance from regularly attending industry outings.

2) Opportunities

A vast, well-maintained professional network will likely be ripe with opportunity. While you may not be actively looking to change positions, it’s likely your network will regularly pass along insight into a variety of career opportunities. This means you’re getting the first look at a position before anyone else. (In fact, according to a recent Jobvite study, employees hired through referral are hired 55 percent faster than those who come from a career site.)

Even if you rarely — or never — bite at the opportunity, there may be a time when you are given word about something that completely changes your career perspective. Aside from opportunities in the realm of employment, your network may also offer you a chance to explore volunteer work, hobbies, or even new industry-related trends and techniques.

3) Support

You’re likely to be faced with a variety of trials and tribulations throughout your career journey. A strong support system will help you manage your challenges and celebrations more effectively. Calling on your professional contacts in times of needs might take some getting used to, but always remember it’s a two-way street. Open chains of communication with your network will allow you to provide a mutually beneficial setting for the daily encounters of a successful career.

4) Discovery

Many individuals lacking a professional network risk limiting their experiences in continued learning. Your network is likely to provide you with an outlet for discovery which you might not otherwise have had access to. For some, this means gaining keen business insight through forum conversations on social platforms, while others may learn innovative tips from a chance meeting with an industry contact at a seminar.

5) Growth

Personal and professional growth is crucial to a successful career. Similar to the guidance and support provided by a portion of your network, some of your contacts might also be beneficial in helping your reach new heights within your career, whether it’s pushing you to apply for a position you initially felt was out of your realm or simply inspiring you to work harder on a daily basis.

6) Status

When it comes to your career, sometimes an aspect of power lies within you who know. While simply having the business cards of a thousand individuals within your industry won’t give you status, maintaining strong professional relationships with a handful of them will. Expert status usually comes down to the success of your personal brand, but it’s important to note that the most successful brands are also backed by a significant and influential network of contacts.

7) Resources

A strong network can easily be utilized as a resource center for a variety of your career needs. Consider each of your connections as a one-of-a-kind book of experiences. Your network is likely to be exploding with information with regard to every aspect of career success and challenge.

Let your network be your secret weapon when it comes to your career. It’s never too late to begin building a vast network of beneficial relationships.

In what ways has your network benefited you throughout your career? Let us know in the comments below!

Heather R. Huhman is a career expert and founder & president of Come Recommended, a career and workplace education and consulting firm specializing in young professionals.