As the saying goes, it isn’t always what you know, it’s who you know. Professional networks are a vital resource that you can draw on throughout your career. Whether you network online or in person, establishing connections with other professionals can have long-lasting benefits.
Start Where you Are
When you start building your professional network, you should start with the people you already know. Colleagues, managers, teachers, clients, customers, and peers are all people you should consider as part of your network.
You can also reach out to alumni from your college. These are people with whom you have already built a relationship, and you can rekindle those connections even if you have been out of school for a while.
LinkedIn is an excellent tool for building your professional network online. Create a robust profile that highlights your professional and educational experience. Make connections with people you work with currently, have worked with in the past, or would like to work with in the future.
Sending connection requests to colleagues is a job half done. You should also connect with employers and interest groups. Make an effort to contribute to discussions and build a reputation for yourself by starting insightful conversations around current events or issues.
Find a Mentor/Be a Mentor
Can you think of anyone who has achieved the success you seek? You can ask that person to mentor you. A mentor can guide you to professional success. Find a mentor that you admire, and who likes you as well. If you can find somebody willing to invest their time and energy into helping you grow, make sure that you use their time and expertise wisely.
Even being a mentor can offer valuable opportunities. Not only are you practicing leadership, but you are building worthwhile connections that can last a lifetime. Helping others succeed can also be very rewarding, and you never know what impacts you can have on others.
Stay Open to New Opportunities
Remember, the idea of a professional network isn’t just to help you find a new job, it is also to help you grow. Being part of a network means that it isn’t always going to be about you and what you want. There is a lot of give and take needed to maintain professional relationships.
Don’t take these connections for granted. Stay in touch, share opportunities, and provide support to others whenever you can. This will help you avoid feeling awkward if you need to ask for help in the future.
Get out there. Get involved in professional organizations and industry events. Talk to people at conferences and seek out experts in the field. More importantly, listen. Use professional events as a way to increase your knowledge, learn more about others who work in your industry, make connections, and expand your network.
Professional networks are all about connection. Maintaining these connections can take a lot of work but can be very beneficial to you throughout your career.