Apr 02

Growing Your Network

What is a professional network?

The goal of networking is to build professional relationships and create personal connections.  Building your network is about meeting and establishing mutually-beneficial relationships with other professionals. Professional networking is much more than swapping business cards or connecting on LinkedIn; it is building relationships and developing trust with other professionals.

It is important to think beyond professional networking websites such as LinkedIn. Developing a purely online connection will neither be enduring or genuine. Technology has made it easier to connect and to maintain professional relationships, but stronger professional relationships develop naturally between people who have met in person. It is important to meet other professionals face-to-face.

“You can’t stay in your corner of the forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes…”     

– Winnie the Pooh

How to Start Networking

1)      Be proactive.

Be curious and look for connections everywhere you go. We are surrounded by amazing people every day. Ask about their interests and talents. Take the time to get to know them. Is there a way that you all might help each other?

2)      Find people with new ideas.

Connect with people who can offer new ideas and perspectives. Find the smartest person in the room and learn as much as you can from them. Be open to new opportunities. Benefit from the expertise of others.

3)      Understand your own value proposition.

Give freely. Your professional network is a place to create

Why is a professional network important?

Building a professional network can help build confidence. Attending events and connecting with other professionals gives us a chance to work on our communication skills. Asking questions, offering help, writing follow up notes are all beneficial skills that only improve with practice.

Within your professional network, you can learn more about new trends and best practices within your industry.  You can also learn from other professionals in different industries. These conversations can lead to fresh ideas, new perspectives, and ideas that can help within your day-to-day job. Our networks can be the place to find valuable advice and guidance.

Building a professional network can enhance your career. Studies have shown that at least 70% of open job positions are not published. A strong professional network can help in your job search and elevate your career. You are more likely to hear of open job opportunities if you have cultivated a strong network. Having a recommendation from a personal reference able to vouch for your work ethic and skills can advance your chances of getting to the interview stage.

Looking to hire talented professionals? Your network can also be the best source for recruiting. Often, your network is home to many talented folks who might be a great fit for your team and are not active in the job market. Stay connected to all kinds of people who can make a recommendation or introduction for you.

Building a professional network is fun! Invest in your network and you will not only raise your personal profile but also enjoy assisting and connecting others.

Written by Bramley Crisco, Employer Relations Specialist Bryan School of Business and Economics, and Megan Parker, Graduate Student Professional Development Specialist