How To Build Your Professional Network
No matter what stage you’re at in your professional development, it is essential to consistently network and meet influential people in your industry. Networking allows you to meet interesting people, gives you the opportunity to expand your personal brand, and it informs you about evolving trends or issues happening within your field. Likewise, it gives you numerous contacts to have at your disposal when you may need them most, such as finding a new job. If you’re new to networking or just need a quick refresher, read these tips on how to successfully build and maintain your professional network.
- Join professional organizations
Professional organizations, whether they be formal or informal, are often a fun and rewarding outlet to grow your network. They enable you to use your work-brain in a different type of environment and connect with new people. Typically, finding an organization to join is the most challenging step. Use the people around you such as family, friends and coworkers as resources to ask about interesting social groups or organizations available to join in your community. Other excellent sources of information to use when researching professional organizations include social media, your community business center, news channel sites, and your local newspaper.
- Attend and participate in speaker events
One of the easiest ways to increase your professional network is to attend and participate in speaker events! Professionals are always looking to learn more about their industry, especially from their peers. After all, Henry Ford once said, “Anyone who stops learning is old… anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young.” Speaker events usually leave time afterward for mixers so you can talk and network with other associates in your field.
- Connect with industry professionals on LinkedIn
In today’s interconnected world, social media plays a large role in the way business affiliates communicate with each other. LinkedIn has been described as the premier social media platform to network with professionals. One of the most significant features of LinkedIn is that it allows you to connect with “people you may know” based on your career experience. For example as a marketing assistant, LinkedIn often suggests I connect with people in marketing and account management roles. Even if you do not personally know some of LinkedIn’s suggestions, chances are you have a contact in common or they’re from a similar community.
- Create and publish content specific to your field
Tangible evidence of your work, whether it be online or through a print publication, establishes credibility and increases your personal brand reputation. When meeting someone influential in the business community, it’s normal to look them up online and see who and what they are involved with. If you can create and publish meaningful content that fills a specific need in your industry, affiliates in your community will look to you as an expert. Actions are said to speak louder than words, so if you can prove you know what you’re talking about through multiple mediums of content, you’ll have people asking you to join their professional network.
- Follow-up with contacts regularly
Once you have built a substantial network of professionals around you, it is imperative to maintain your relationships. Although this is the last step in the networking process, it is often the most important and yet the most ignored. The business community is generally full of people willing to help one another; however, it is difficult to ask favors from people you hardly talk to. The best way to alleviate this problem is to regularly follow-up with old and existing contacts, even if it is as simple as sending a quick email. Everyone appreciates being thought of, and it will only benefit you by making you stand out.