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7 Steps to Build Your Professional Network

May 25, 2016

If you’re job hunting, if you’ve had a job for a year, or even if you’ve had a job for twenty years, your professional network is important. The more people you can connect with in the working world, the more opportunities and doors will open as you advance in your career. You never know when you will need to collaborate on a project, look for a new position, find a mentor, seek advice, gather information, or just need to connect with other professionals.

Here are seven steps for building a professional network that is strong, helpful, and beneficial.

1. Stay connected with your college or university’s alumni association. Chances are, your college or university has a group like this. Find out how they communicate (whether through a website, a Facebook group, a newsletter, etc) and make sure you subscribe or join to stay in the loop. Often times, people who are involved in hiring new employees will look back to their alma mater, and they will usually share that information through alumni associations.

2. Join local professional groups in your community. Many cities have young professional councils (if you’re younger or newer to the working world) or professional associations based on your field. Do a Google search to find what you city or town might have, and check out an upcoming event!

3. Keep your LinkedIn profile current, and use it. Having an always updated profile is a great first step. Don’t be afraid to also browse around, check out organizations you’re interested in, and reach out to people who have jobs you want to learn more about. Heather, a hiring expert at The Hershey Company says: “Start networking with people in your field and/or industry. You can send them a brief message that introduces yourself & your mission. Make the message short & sweet! The bigger you build your network the more recruiters, talent acquisition & hiring managers have a chance at seeing your profile.”

4. Reach out to family and friends you already know. You have an established web of relationships in these networks, and it expands quickly from there. Ask the people you are close to if they might know anyone who you should meet. A hiring expert from Asurion, Stephanie, says: “Tell them your interests and see if they know anyone who could help you find opportunities in your desired career.” Have your friend or relative help arrange an exchange of information or an initial meeting, and take it from there.

5. Use social media to your advantage. “Get out there and check out LinkedIn Groups, Facebook pages and the social media content of companies you are interested in, and you are likely to find some great people to discuss your advancement goals and the work you're doing,” Stephanie from AT&T says. As always, make sure you are representing yourself professionally on your own social media so you put your best face forward.

6. Make time for intentional conversation and relationship building. “Set aside time on your calendar each month to keep up with contacts you've made and meet new ones,” Bryan, a hiring expert from IBM, says. All the contacts in the world won’t help you if you just store their information away and never keep in touch. Bryan suggests a great way to do keep the relationship alive: “Ask if you can buy them a cup of coffee or have a quick phone call at their convenience (be prepared for early morning or on a weekend).”

7. Get out of your bubble. Find things that interest you, even if they seem to be unrelated to your career or field. If you love kids, volunteer time at a local school or nonprofit. Even the people you meet there can be great to add to your network or call on for references as you interview. Not everybody in your network needs to do the same thing you do or be in the same profession! The more you diversify your activities, the more skills you will gain, the more experience you’ll have under your belt, and the more your network will grow.

Networking may seem intimidating or challenging, but little by little, you can build a web of relationships that will only help you to grow personally and professionally.

 

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