Is your professional network collecting people or dust?
Most individuals have a misconception about how to build and sustain a solid network within their industry. It doesn’t have to be difficult. Nowadays, there are several ways to seamlessly fit professional relationships into a busy schedule. Whether you’re new to the industry or looking for opportunities, a professional network can easily point you in the right direction.
For students, great places to make the right connections are organizations and clubs. Most people who join business or social clubs are out to meet people and build their network. This means that everyone starts off on a clean slate. Making an impression is relatively simple, as the members are open to new comers such as yourself.
It is recommended to check the background of your target company for tips on relevant school organizations. Joining the right groups can increase the likelihood of meeting alumni who moved on to become seniors or managers. Speaking to such individuals in the setting of an organization gives students an upper hand, as most alumni are willing to help out individuals who come from the same university.
Professionals may not have access to student clubs and groups. In this case, one should first look into his or her circle of friends. Once you’ve explained to your friend that you are keen on extending your professional network for a future career change, chances are he or she will bring you along to social gatherings, meet ups, or casual drinks.
Compared to student organizations and clubs, meeting individuals in this manner is more difficult, as professionals are not that open to simply talking about the latest news in their industry to a stranger. If you’re meeting a group of professionals who are having drinks after a long grind at the office, the last thing they may want to talk about is work. The best thing to do in this situation is be patient and go with the flow. Have striking conversations, and be sincere about building relationships. In situations like these, you will only be talking about work 5-10% of the time.
The key is to make it clear that you are interested in the industry you’re aiming for and you have the skills to prove it. If the person you are speaking to is interested, he or she will probe further. If not immediately, in the future when the need arises.
The next best places to consider are seminars and expos. Look for listings where the guest speaker is a CEO. Most people who are in attendance during these events are related to your prospective field. This could be clients or other professionals. Approaching people in this setting is straightforward, as most events allot time for individuals to go around and meet people.
Sustaining Professional Relationships
Meeting the right people is only a small part of the networking equation. One must also nurture the new connection before being able to openly talk about insider tips and possible job openings.
With a long term perspective, the essential part of the networking process is building trust. This can be done by first being reliable. Setup a casual lunch and show up on time. Don’t send a delayed or late reply to an email or SMS. You don’t have to necessarily do huge favors or tasks for people to increase trust. Send invites out to your newly acquired network on a consistent basis.
Another aspect of sustaining business relationships is increasing your personal value. Individuals also want to feel that you are a great addition to their network. Therefore, it is equally important to introduce your network to other professionals you are close to.
Using online resources to establish your network should not be overlooked. Reaching out to people who you were once in contact with doesn’t have to be an inconvenience. More importantly, making new connections in any industry can be done anytime, in just a few clicks.
When it comes to social media, LinkedIn is one of the best platforms for professional networking. There is no need to beat around the bush, as people and companies who use LinkedIn are there for career or business-related reasons.
Online groups are great for getting plugged into an industry. Similar to students who are looking for the right organizations to join, it is recommended to first look into which online groups the employees of your target company are parts of. After joining the relevant groups, it is essential to participate and become active as a rightful member.
This can be done by asking questions, adding insightful comments, and posting engaging content. In the online world, this is an effective way to build trust. Online groups are also a great place to get invites to events, where you can extend your network offline.
Making Your Network Work For You
Once you have gathered momentum, things should start falling into place. A few months before recruitment season, begin to inquire about possible job openings from individuals in your network. Ideally, you should aim for setting up meetings with partners, or seniors to better present yourself as a possible candidate for the vacant position.
A direct recommendation is very powerful in bypassing the usual shortlisting process. Even if you have to go through the interview, having a personal recommendation from a relevant member of the firm can ease the stress and tension often associated with recruitment.
To conclude, boosting one’s professional network is not a one-time ordeal. It is a continuous, ongoing and repetitive process. However, because of the useful tools available to today’s professionals, there is no excuse in having a poorly managed network.
Sourced Article: consultingfact.com