When it comes to growing your professional network, who you know really does matter. Making connections can lead to referrals, new job opportunities and valuable interviews. As a means of growth, expanding your professional network can do wonders for your career in all kinds of different ways – even if you’re not looking for a new job.
If your previous efforts have faltered, or you don’t know where to start, it’s easy to view networking with trepidation. But with the right methods and approaches, it’s possible to turn network expansion into real opportunities for you and your career.
To help you get started, we’ve come up with some top tips that’ll soon have you creating, expanding and maintaining an impressive professional network.
What is a professional network?
Before we get started, it’s worth defining what we mean by a professional network. Simply put, your professional network is the group of people you’ll connect with for business-related reasons.
Everyone in your network – called contacts or connections – can share information such as job leads, prospective employers and clients, recommend vendors, and suppliers, as well as help you to solve work-related problems.
Professional networking creates and maintains relationships with people who help you to grow your career or brand.
Top tips to expand your professional network
Join a professional organisation
Whatever industry you’re in, you’re sure to find professional organisations relating to your role that you can become a member of. Usually, these organisations are populated with experienced, knowledgeable people who can further your own success.
This is a great way to develop your own connections and expand your knowledge within your own profession.
Research networking events and trade shows near you
Although this tip won’t mean much right now, it’s worth keeping in mind when the world returns to normality post-pandemic. One of the easiest ways to grow your network, events and trade shows are tailor-made for those looking to discuss their interests with like-minded people.
Head over to LinkedIn, as well as sites like Meetup and Eventbrite, and you’ll be sure to find different events in your particular field.
Work on your LinkedIn profile
LinkedIn has improved the networking landscape, so enhancing your presence on there is essential. With so many opportunities for referrals, introductions and references, it pays to make your LinkedIn profile look as professional as possible for when you make those crucial connections.
From your profile picture, headline and summary to requesting recommendations and endorsements, there are all sorts of things you can do to stand out from other users when networking, so it pays to invest in your profile.
Being more active on LinkedIn is well worth the effort. You don’t need to post multiple times a day or respond to as many comments as possible; quality is the name of the game.
Try joining and posting in groups relating to your field, make valuable connections, and when commenting on posts, make sure your words matter. Expressing yourself in a professional, insightful way shows other connections that you’re a person who knows their stuff.
Although it’s frequently neglected by some professionals, volunteering with a charity or advocacy group can be a powerful way to expand your network. You might find that networking events are often solely for small talk. Volunteering, on the other hand, can lead to deeper discussions and conversations, which can create more opportunities to strengthen your relationships.
And by volunteering with people from different backgrounds, you can establish a stronger network that’s not just limited to your own career interests.
Always stay in touch
Networking doesn’t begin and end with an introduction. If you really want to make your connections matter, they need to be nurtured. When you meet people you’ve struck a rapport with, it’s important to stay in touch with them. Consciously re-engaging with your connections – and not just when you need something – can help to deepen your network.
While it’s difficult right now, taking your relationships offline and meeting in person can be a great way to boost trust with others – something that’s harder to do through social media.
How to network during the pandemic
Although we can’t network in person, that doesn’t mean we have to put our professional networks on hold. Here are some great ways to expand and maintain your relationships with others during the pandemic:
• The pandemic has been LinkedIn and Twitter’s time to shine, making it easier to expand your digital network more than ever. Boosting your social media presence on sites like this can create all manner of different career opportunities, so make sure you carve time out to be social.
• With face-to-face contact limited for the time being, virtual networking events have been an absolute necessity over the past year. Webinars, virtual conferences and remote roundtables have provided alternatives to traditional networking events, allowing professionals to share knowledge, market products and strengthen their business relationships without meeting in person.
• Previously, we would have connected locally, but now that businesses, networks and people are more eager to connect, why not think globally? There are many new possibilities open to us now, so why restrict yourself to your usual borders?
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