The strength of your professional network is critical to your professional career and deserves special attention. It can be a valuable tool to further your career goals and seek out new job opportunities. Let’s have a closer look at ways to move beyond the familiar so we can get your network started.
Ask For Introductions
When you want to connect with an influential decision maker, your chances of success will rise significantly with an introduction instead of a cold call. This approach will preserve your professional image and make the most efficient use of everyone’s time. Make it as easy as possible for your connection to make the introduction and always give them a chance to say no without feeling obligated. Provide context around the introduction so they can determine if the introduction will be valuable to either you and/or them and won’t damage their own reputation. Your network of connections is your foundation so be strategic about who you reach out to.
A mentor is someone who can provide guidance, feedback and strategic ideas to enhance your professional growth. To make it a deeply satisfying relationship, choose someone you have a good connection and natural rapport with and can listen with an open mind.
Your mentor may be younger than you but may have more experience and knowledge than you in your chosen profession. A good mentor will help you stick to and achieve your career goals and if necessary push you to the next step. They can offer perspective and share relatable stories when you are trying to make decisions.
An industry insider has expert information in your field of work and is quite aware of what’s currently happening and is knowledgeable about future trends. This is someone you can bounce ideas off because they may know what will work and what won’t in the industry. You may have more than one industry insider, for example, a market expert, a researcher or an academic. These people may point out pitfalls in an idea or action you may take in your industry and deliver constructive feedback.
Practice 2-Way Networking
Connecting with your peers and learning about their experiences and skills will help you to reciprocate when you have been helped in the past. This will also encourage your connections to return those favors when you need them and to recognize the value you have to offer. Start your two-way networking by taking the initiative and connect two people you know will benefit from the introduction and start developing a giving attitude.
Look Outside Your Niche
Don’t dismiss contacts that are not in your industry as you never know when they might be useful. They may one day be able to introduce you to someone who does work in your industry. If you want to reach outside of your niche industry, volunteer for causes you are passionate about or attend alumni events. Meeting and interacting with a diverse group of professionals can really help expand your creative thoughts and improve your professional brand.
Building your professional network will always be a work in progress as you may add more contacts, drop some and expand into other industries. Cultivate and nurture your relationships to ensure you always have people to provide insight and advice throughout your career. When it’s done properly, professional networking can open many doors and opportunities.