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Building a Strong Professional Network

Having a robust and wide professional network can be a huge advantage for your career. Networking is all about relationships and being surrounded by people who know you and your capabilities. However, having a strong network doesn’t come without some effort; It takes time, energy, and the willingness to put yourself out there. Here are some tangible tips that can help you begin.

Be Strategic

The key to networking isn’t about how many people you have in your network, but how many could help make a difference in your career and could offer helpful knowledge and advice. In an article on Indeed, they write, “Building relationships with others in your industry and individuals who could potentially be a mentor to you can be valuable. For example, as a university instructor, you may seek guidance from a tenured professor who teaches the same discipline as you.” They go on to say, “For example, if you work in finance but have a passion for mental health, consider joining a networking group of mental health professionals. This can allow you to gain more insight into that industry and even potentially find a position there if and when you’re ready to make a career change.”


Be Willing to Help

As mentioned above, networking is all about relationships, both giving and receiving. Think about ways you could help others that are in your network. For instance, if you hear of a job at your company that sounds like it would be the perfect fit for someone you know, offer to introduce them to the hiring manager. In an article in Harvard Business Review, they write, “If networking feels too transactional for you, consider using it to offer your knowledge, skills, advice, or expertise to other people — even when you don’t need or want something in return. This can help you connect with people on a deeper level, according to Professor Deborah Grayson Riegel. In her article, ‘Are You Taking Full Advantage of Your Network?’, Riegal talks about how to develop your “help fluency,” or the range of ways you can be helpful to others. Think about what you’re good at, what you like to do, and what others often ask you to assist them with. For instance, if you’re a great proofreader, you can offer to help copyedit a connection’s resume and cover letter. Or if you’re a great listener, you can support a connection who might be going through a difficult time.”


Keep Your Contacts Warm

Once you have a good amount of people in your network and are less focused on building and growing it, it’s important to keep those relationships strong. In an article on Forbes, they write, “The reality is that you can’t keep every contact warm. However, certain categories of contacts should probably be at the top of your list, including former managers and colleagues, recruiters, those working at companies of interest, mentors, mentees, alumni, and other influential individuals in your sector with strong networks themselves. You need a way to keep these key contacts warm, especially when you don’t need anything from them. One way to consistently keep certain contacts warm in your network is to make it a routine so you can do it without it involving too much effort or friction. Much research has been done on habit formation, and books like The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg or Atomic Habits by James Clear indicate that forming new habits involves a cue, routine, and payoff. It turns out that the cue is often the most important part of forming new habits.”