By Dale Isip
Building a professional network can help you improve your prospects for work-related educational, business, and career opportunities. It can also help you learn about your industry in a real-world sense – being an excellent source of practical information related to your field.
Social media sites and professional networking events are popular with those building professional networks, but there are many other ways to make connections. The following are some sound ideas for professional networking.
Leaving Your Desk
In 2021, a total of 28 percent of U.S. adults reported using one of the most popular professional social networking sites, up from 18 percent in 2012. From this, social networks appear to be gaining popularity in the professional world.
This, however, does not necessarily translate to engaged learning opportunities, better business prospects, or a growth of quality connections. If you want to build such a network, you might have to leave your desk and get out into the real world.
Professional networking events are a suitable option for making connections. Try to attend such events with a helpful mindset. In other words, when you meet others, think less of “What’s in this for me?”, and more of “What can I do for you?” – with a genuine interest in working with them.
Be sure to value your knowledge and experience as a professional. If you are confident in your expertise, chances are others will notice. With that in mind, also try to speak with those who are in management positions. You never know who could help you advance in your company or serve as a mentor.
Connect in New Ways
Making new connections does not always mean attending professional networking events. There are other ways meet people and make acquaintances. Your participation in hobbies such as sports, music, art, or games could help you meet people who need — or know people who need — your professional expertise.
As with networking events, reach out to others with a casual, friendly, and helpful approach. You should enjoy speaking with your acquaintances and not be pressured to focus on business right away. If the subject of business comes up, that is fine, but try to develop an easygoing relationship with others first.
Follow Up with Your Connections
If you have decent relationships with your connections, a casual follow up should be one of the easiest things to do. Ideally, you should not feel frightened or scared to ask something of your acquaintances – you should be able to relate to them with ease.
If you are asking them about work-related things, remember to keep things friendly, but professional. If you have a less-than-easygoing relationship with your connections, make sure you are polite and courteous, as you would with anything related to your work.
In professional networking, always try to keep a helpful mindset from start to finish. Listen carefully to others, you could help them as much as they could help you. By being responsive, helpful, and friendly, you can develop sound professional networking connections.