It’s very important to build your personal brand and network like a pro in today’s business world.
You will probably have some sort of established network provided you have been working in your choice field for a couple years now.
If you must get to where you aspire to be as far as your career is concerned, then you must be ready to stay connected because there’s no one who made it to the top without building a strong and formidable connection.
It will interest you to know that many successful business professionals have connections.
The connection was not like an inheritance to them but rather forged through dedicated years of hard work in networking.
As an aspiring and young professional who is keen on growing his or her career, you must first of all appreciate networking as an essential element of career success.
Whether you love meeting new people or you happen to find yourself in a crowded room full of strangers, its not time to shiver, but time to cease the opportunity by building a network through fostering connection with people of similar interest.
Furthermore, creating a unique connection with people will be immensely beneficial as you advance throughout your professional journey.
Finding new and exciting ways to expand your professional network begins with you first deciding where to start as it can be overwhelming at first try.
Expanding your network can be difficult if you already struggle to network in general.
So, instead of observing networking opportunities with anxiety, be determined to view them as opportunities for professional development.
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To your greatest surprise you will have an impressive network than you could ever have imagined.
What is professional networking and why is it important?
Networking has become widely used in conversations but before then, lets know what it really means.
Below are few definitions that explains networking and professional networking;
- Networking means a valuable act of maintaining relationships even when you are not looking for a new job
- Professional networking is a deliberate activity to build, reinforce and maintain relationships of trust with other people to further goals
- Professional networking is simply networking focused on professional goals according to Anders Ostlund, founder of networking site fryday, on Medium.
Businesses right from time, are inspired and driven by genuine relationships as it revolves around people.
Absence of relationship from business will make business in itself meaningless so to tell the fact:
“Relationships affect every aspect of business from sales to recruitment” by Yiannis Gavrielides, CEO of Conve.
It is therefore vital for everyone to build and maintain real professional relationships.
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A Social media platform like LinkedIn, Twitter is a powerful tool you can leverage to ease networking.
Here, you can carry out your networking activities by simply sending an invitation on LinkedIn or following a contact on Twitter.
With increased accessibility, it will be more important than ever to grow your personal brand and network like a professional.
To broaden your horizon more on growing your professional network, below are four (4) important ways to get started;
1. Work on Your LinkedIn Profile
According to Michael Brown a career consultant and author of Fresh Passion: Get a Brand or Die a Generic (Greenleaf Book group Press, 2013) said, “social media, particularly LinkedIn, have transformed the networking landscape. Many people rely on their LinkedIn network for referrals, introductions, reviews and references all of which comes in handy when you are looking for a job”.
Brown stated that anyone you connect with professionally should be added to your LinkedIn network even if your contact with the people was short, include them because you are making an effort to grow your network.
LinkedIn is an important tool in growing your professional network, as it is designed with an interesting feature to learn about someone’s professional and educational background, find similarities and build a great conversation despite meeting for the first time according to Tyler Whitman, a licensed real estate salesperson at Triplemint.
It’s a great advantage or opportunity to have some information about someone you will be communicating with, whether it’s for a job interview, a sales call or an alumni event.
If only you can reveal that you have dedicated time to input effort, you will immediately create a good impression and will be more likely to be recalled.
2. Ask for Help
While trying to grow your professional network, aside from building connections, you don’t have to be afraid to ask someone in your network to introduce you to another they may know.
It is strictly business and most people will be happy to connect you to someone who can be of help.
It is important to request for help from a networking wingman usually a male friend who accompanies and supports you in some activities.
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You don’t have to brag about yourself before a stranger. This act can be embarrassing, but if you network with a friend, the person can share about you and your success while you do the same in return.
3. Never Stop Looking for Opportunities
You can be at the top of your career in networking and to achieve these, you can begin by grabbing a business card, or searching for your professional contact on LinkedIn.
You can also reach out to those contacts if there’s any chance provided, they can be of help professionally to you in the future.
In this line of your networking career, you focus more on growth and people you encounter daily.
One major tip to keep in mind is to avoid being selfish when you network.
Design a background first then take ample time to learn about the other person, while telling them about yourself.
Once there’s a foundation, asking them what you want isn’t going to be a problem though you shouldn’t be too forward to out rightly ask for a favor.
Always engage in conversation that brings about exchange of information.
If there’s a way out, you can take time to build up genuine and strong friendly-fellowship before trying to leverage the person’s connection to your own advantage.
Nobody wishes to feel used as far sharing of vital information is concerned.
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When growing your professional network according to Gavrielides saying; “networking should be true to one’s own personality, spirit and character. It should be a part of both our business and professional lives”
He further said; “We are naturally social beings and should ensure we socialize rather than engage in forced exchange. The relationships I built as time went on are now customers, suppliers, partners, colleagues, investors including close friends.”
All these are the ingredients to growing a successful professional network.
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4. Keep in Touch
To become a pro in your networking business, have in mind that networking is not only when you meet a contact and share with them at your own convenience or when you need assistance.
If you really want to connect, you must learn to grow a sustainable give and take relationship.
Make sure you stay in touch with your connection though it’s never easy staying in touch with people as it requires effort. It is however, very important to constantly reconnect.
When communicating, it is ideal to keep the conversation as natural as possible.
Irrespective of our busy schedules, we must be conscious enough to reconnect.
According to Ostlund, he wrote citing that while social media channels are greater ways to build relationships, such relationships should be in-person meetings to build depth.
It’s also important to note that trust is difficult to develop when there’s no personal interaction during a face-to-face chat.
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How can networking help your career?
As you grow your professional network employing the online and in-person meetings, networking has become of utmost importance to success in locating the next phase of your career.
Based on recent findings from search tool ZipRecruiters, it was estimated that;
- 73% of hiring managers have hired a candidate through social media
- 93% of hiring managers review a candidate’s social media profile before deciding to hire them and
- 60% of the best candidates are referred by other people
Networking has so much power and influence that you can’t ignore it if you really want to grow your professional network and overall career.
You must note that the advantages of networking are beyond referrals and considerations in terms of new job openings.
Staying professional helps develop and expand your skills and knowledge base through interacting with other people within your field.
You can also acquaint yourself by learning what people outside your niche are doing, presenting you with a fresh perspective.
Your challenging questions can be tendered and responded to by those group of experts who can easily figure out the solution since you have a link with them.
Sharing as well as asking for assistance where necessary is one of the best ways to keep the connection going.
Having that in mind, you mustn’t overlook industry events as great opportunities for growing your professional network.
Keep up with your homework ahead so you will be at alert when you are about to meet a potential new connection.
Now, with your vast knowledge, you introduce yourself and boom! You’re on your way to carving out a successful professional network in your career.
The influence and power of networking cannot be overemphasized as the knowledge of networking helps you to build a unique relationship with those contacts in your field and outside as well.
Networking offers you the opportunity to meet and rapport with experienced networkers at the front burner who will ensure you are well inclined with the principles applicable to networking.
The art of networking is dynamic, so staying abreast of new and effective methods and platforms is key.
You don’t have to be actively looking for a job to network. Networking is crucial for building relationships that can help your current position and enrich your professional life. Happy networking!