A solid professional network is integral to a successful career. Within your network you can share ideas and interests, learn valuable lessons or pass on your own knowledge, and find exciting new job opportunities. Your network might also be able to help you in a pinch, and there will be times when others will turn to you for support. So, how do we go about building and maintaining a professional network? There are several key methods, and today we’re going to show you how. Let’s begin.
Be Your True Self
First and foremost, be genuine. In the professional world, it’s all too common for people to go around looking to take advantage of the opportunities of others. When it comes to networking, try to see it as building lasting professional relationships with like-minded individuals, rather than a fast track to a better title or a higher salary. Those things will come in time, but your network should be a two-way street.
If you’re actively engaging your network by congratulating others on a job well done or on a promotion, or simply by wishing them a Happy Birthday on their social media accounts, that means you’re now investing in your network. You’ll get extra points from your network by offering sage advice or by providing a great job lead. The bottom line is, you get out what you put in, and sooner or later, someone from your network might just have a great opportunity for you.
Identify Networking Events
Ah yes, the old tried and true networking events. Now that we’ve got a handle on how to operate within our network, it’s time to build it up. The first and easiest thing to do is to seek out social media groups and pages relating to your field. These should provide a wealth of information with regards to events, whether they’re local or virtual. Furthermore, social media groups are also a great way to interact with others in your field, gain insight into job opportunities, and form new relationships.
Another great resource is your school’s alumni network. Alumni networks will often organize events that are geared towards a group’s shared interests, or that are industry specific. Typically, you can subscribe to a newsletter that will keep you up to date on upcoming events, which means you won’t even have to think!
Your coworkers, friends, and even your family members might have some insight into upcoming networking events, so it always pays to ask around. It’s also worth mentioning that your local library (yes, that place) might hold such events, or at the very least, the staff might be able to point you in the right direction. When it comes to seeking out networking events, there really isn’t a wrong place to look, you just have to make sure the event is relevant and that it’s a good use of your time.
Once you’re ready to start attending networking events, it’s important to get your proverbial ducks in a row. First, get yourself some nice business cards. You don’t have to go crazy and spend a fortune, just make sure all your information is up to date, and that you take care not to hand out business cards that are bent or creased—not a good look. Your current employer might already supply you with business cards, so if that’s the case, just make sure you’ve got enough and that they’re current.
When attending networking events, do your best to spend more time speaking with new people. Of course, you should make your rounds and say hello to your friends and colleagues, but the point of these events is to expand your network. Work up a brief pitch about yourself that you can use when approaching new people. This pitch should be short and sweet, and should include a bit about yourself and your experience.
Meeting a bunch of new people under these circumstances can be a bit nerve-racking, so do your best to stay calm and speak slowly and clearly. Always be polite and friendly, and take note of any important information about the people you meet. This can include their name and title, the organization they work for, and any other identifying information that you might deem useful in the future. If you’d like more detailed information about getting the most out of a networking event, check out our previous blog here.
Stay in Touch
Life can get busy, which sometimes makes it difficult to keep in regular contact with our friends, let alone our professional network. Thankfully, staying in touch with your professional network can be as simple as regularly engaging on social media platforms such as LinkedIn, or in all those Facebook groups you just joined. Of course, nothing is a substitute for that good old fashioned in-person meet up, so be sure you make contact with people in your network should you ever encounter them at an event.
If you ever feel like you’ve let too much time go by without contacting someone in your network, take the time to reconnect. Try something simple, like congratulating them on a recent accomplishment or sharing one of your own achievements. Open up with statements such as “It’s been a while since we last spoke, how are you?” People who haven’t heard from you in a while will be thrilled to speak with you again, and it will remind them that you (yes, you!) exist, which might lead to a new opportunity.
Be the Network
An excellent way to gain visibility among professionals is to help connect people with one another. Let’s say you’ve got a contact who is looking for a new job opportunity in finance and you’ve got a friend at a great company that’s currently hiring; passing that information along to your contact will help them, which in turn will make them more likely to help you in the future. Like we said earlier, your network is a two-way street, and this is a great example of how that works.
You can also create your own social media groups, pages, and even schedule your own events. Whether it’s a Facebook group or an event scheduling platform such as EventBrite.com, taking control and creating your own events is a great way to get yourself out there, meet new people, share interests, and gain awareness of exciting job opportunities. It’ll also show that you’re willing to take the initiative, which is a quality that is sought after by potential employers.
That’s all there is to it! With a strong professional network in place, you’ll enjoy a more agile and fulfilling career in the field of your choice. Always remember that even the most successful people have had help along the way, and it feels good to help others whenever you have the chance. Who knows—maybe one day you’ll grow to become the wise sage of your professional network!
Want to be found by top employers? Upload Your Resume
Join Gold to Unlock Company Reviews