People take pride in making it on their own. Most professionals are keen on showcasing their independence at work and their ability to do their tasks by themselves. While there is honor in doing things on your own, having people you can trust and you can rely on is a necessary thing, personally and professionally. No matter how individualistic or independent or self-sufficient you are, there will always be circumstances where you will need help. While you have a friend or loved one to primarily cover the personal bases, you need someone to be with you professionally as well. This is where the value of professional networking comes in. The term “professional network” is a fairly common concept and you probably already have an idea of what it entails.
Professional networking is the process of making friends, so to speak, in the professional landscape. When you build professional networking relationships, you are essentially building a connection with a person to rely on for help. Much like how a true friend supports, encourages, and helps you to reach happiness and success in life, the people in your professional network do the same, only they cover business-related happiness and success. Professional networking helps you to grow, excel and improve as a professional through the connections you have with other professionals. To give you a bit of an idea, having a professional network can help you get referrals for jobs, reliable recommendations when you go job hunting, accomplish tasks in a more efficient manner, etc. What your professional networking relationships can do for you depends on the kind of connections you have built and the kind of industry you are in. Nevertheless, this activity primarily starts with your immediate circle - your family, friends, classmates, colleagues, etc. Never underestimate the value of your existing connections because that is a good starting point.
While it is true that having an immediate circle can be a good start for you, professional networking greatly expands your landscape and helps you gain access to more opportunities to advance your career. Not only do most hiring and talent managers see having a professional network as a good indicator of a professional’s capabilities and working personality, they also tend to deem you more credible and reliable depending on the quality of your network. Professional networking can also serve as a pool of both resources and knowledge, especially for young professionals. You can find mentors (and eventually mentees to return the favor), dependable colleagues, and even lifelong friends. Having people with more or the same experience as you can greatly help you in growing as a professional (and as a person) and achieving further success. We’re sure that you are already talented and skillful on your own but it never hurts to have more people see, believe, and support you too.
Professional Networking Tips
There’s really no sure way on how you can start building your professional networking connections. As we’ve briefly mentioned, there are a lot of factors that go into professional networking. While it mostly depends on the industry and business you are in, your personality and how you interact with people plays a role too. There is no exact and definitive formula about how to build your own professional network. But we can give you some professional networking tips that can help you not only to build professional networking connections but also how you can maintain them.
Start early, start now - and don’t stop. Don’t wait to finish your degree or start job hunting to actively start building connections. Building professional relationships early on not only helps you enhance your communication skills, but it will also give you an edge when you look for a job. Consequently, even after you have established professional networking connections and you’ve been accepted into a job, you shouldn’t be complacent in both maintaining the professional network you have and further building it. Having a good strong network to support you helps your career in the long run.
Seize the opportunity when it comes. There will be situations where you need to actually go all professional but there are also circumstances that may present opportunities for you to do professional networking in the most casual way. For instance, there are forums and events that really aim to help professionals build their professional network, but you can also find and start valuable connections while you’re in the doctor’s waiting room, or when you’re buying something in a store, or even as you are waiting for public transportation.
Read the room and respond accordingly. In connection with our earlier tip, we should remind you that each circumstance is different and your response to each should also be appropriate. In some cases, a firm handshake and a confident introduction about yourself is a good way to go. There are also opportunities to build professional networking relationships by starting off with a casual conversation about anything but work. Either way, you have to be conscious (but not overly wary) of the atmosphere and mood of the room and the people around you, so you can present yourself in the best way.
Make the effort to build up the relationship. A common mistake for professionals who are building their professional network is that they think and live with the idea that professional networking starts and stops after the exchange of names and business cards. The reality is that in order to build a truly strong professional network, you need to maintain a good and meaningful relationship with your network. Chat with them on random days, invite them for coffee or drinks sometime, comment and interact with their social media posts – really make the effort to get in touch with them and you will be building something that lasts (maybe even after your happy retirement).
Remember that reciprocity is key. The value of professional networking lies in the fact that you always have people that got you covered. This, obviously, also means that you are also someone’s cover. Always make it a point to return favors or do favors for those in your professional network and be willing to help them. If you go out of your way to lend a hand to them, rest assured that they are bound to do the same. And when they do so, don’t forget to show gratitude and say thank you – send an SMS, call to say thank you, send a token, or return the favor back. This will help you build professional networking relationships that are healthy and strong.
Keep up with the times. Remember that as part of a professional network yourself, you are only as good as the things you can do and the knowledge you can impart. Thus, working on the relationship between you and your personal networking connections is not the only thing you have to devote attention to. You should also never neglect your own personal and professional development. Try to always be updated about everything that may be relevant to your professional network. Educate and train yourself so your capabilities can be significantly improved. This will not just help you enter into wider professional networks but also help you stay relevant to your current ones.
Maximize the digital platforms. It’s fairly easy to find people that you can build valuable professional relationships with because we have access to the internet where all social media platforms are. It is important for you to not only create accounts on online and social media platforms, you also need to try to be actively using them whether to post your own content, sharing others’, or interacting with other people. Professional networking these days doesn’t only happen face-to-face, if you are not immersed in the digital business world, you are totally missing out.
Let’s take the last tip discussed one step further. You know how you usually give out business cards to introduce yourself and what you do? Or how you share pictures and/or videos in your social media accounts about how your day as a professional is going or about your recent accomplishments? Well, what if we tell you that there is a way for you to do all of that in a more streamlined, professional yet casual way using just one platform? How so, you ask?
With your own professional website, you can add information about who you are and what you do. You can easily display galleries of your own successes. You can add social media feeds or links to your social media accounts, and create your own contact form. But most importantly, you can add a way for people to easily connect with you and join in on your professional network. Professional networking is made even easier!
Strikingly is an amazing website builder that allows you to easily do all of that! What are you waiting for? Sign up now and boost your opportunities to build professional networking connections with your own engaging professional website.