Building a professional network is an important step toward advancing your career. A professional network gives you job leads, helps you get recommended for positions and keeps you in the know about career-related developments. A good professional network is also an excellent resource if you are looking for a new job or a career change. Growing your network may seem daunting, but you can take steps to make the process easier.
To successfully grow your network, first make connections with people working in and around your industry. Build your professional network to include both industry peers and people on the higher rungs of the career ladder. A great professional network includes people from numerous companies with various job titles and even includes people who do work that is only tangentially related to your current industry but who are movers and shakers in their own fields.
Start by making connections at workplace functions, such as client meetings or industry conferences. Then, branch out. Ask friends to introduce you to people they know who work in your industry. Visit Facebook and see which of your high school classmates are now working in your career field. Many good sources for building networks are commonly overlooked, such as contacting your college's alumni network. The more sources you tap, the bigger your professional network grows.
You can also grow your network through social apps such as GroupMe or Connect. These apps are not specifically designed for professional networking. Instead, they're designed to help groups of people communicate quickly and easily. However, this type of app-based communication is often extremely useful for growing your professional network. For example: one week, you're sending Snapchats to friends in distant cities; the next week, you're asking those friends if they know of anyone who is hiring. Keeping loose connections with friends via social apps helps you turn those friendships into professional networking opportunities when you need them.
As you work to build your professional network, do not try to force a connection every time you meet a new contact; instead, simply make a good impression, have a quality conversation and stay in touch. Invite the person to connect with you on LinkedIn or follow you on Twitter. This type of casual social media interaction helps keep your professional network alive and strong. Remembering people when you meet them again at industry functions, and asking them relevant questions about their lives and work, also helps keep your network healthy. So does sending a quick @reply on Twitter or liking a status on Facebook.
Building a professional network seems nerve wracking until you realize that you have potential network contacts all around you. Start with people in your workplace and industry, and then branch out to include high school and college alumni, friends of friends and social media connections. Remember to keep your interactions casual and friendly as you build your network, and keep in mind that the more contacts you make, the faster your professional network grows.
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