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Regardless of the industry, business as usual is speeding up. We are called upon to respond more quickly to more diverse and urgent demands, and we are expected to deliver a higher-quality result. As these new standards become the norm in our professional lives, the value of strong personal networks becomes increasingly clear. Here are 3 ways that effective networking can help you strengthen and deepen your professional influence and performance.

1. Networking is education. Connecting with people who are experts in their field gives you a resource when you are suddenly called upon for an understanding of that field. As an added bonus, people who are really good at their jobs often like to teach others, which means that your new professional bond is paying dividends to both parties.

2. Networking is innovation. Connecting with people in your industry means that you now have a whole community of people facing similar challenges and opportunities, which may yield insights and solutions you wouldn’t have thought of by yourself. Talking with your peers about the specific trends and possibilities facing your industry gives everyone an opportunity to brainstorm and learn–improving everyone’s toolkit.

3. Networking is rehearsal. The greatest fear in America is the fear of speaking in public. Networking lets you practice encountering and interacting with other people outside the speaker-audience model, giving you the confidence and skillset that you will need in higher-stakes environments, whether it’s a speaking engagement, an important interview or a client presentation.

While technology gives us powerful tools to help us with our work, the most flexible, creative and far-reaching resource we have is still each other. Building relationships that foster collaboration and mutual support opens new doors to professional development and personal growth.