Professional Networking: What It Is and How To Master It
Updated March 10, 2023
Most people have heard of networking, many people don't know what it is and how important it can be for their professional careers. Professional networking is important for people at all stages of their careers, from recent graduates to experienced, executive-level professionals. In this article, we explore what professional networking is, why you should do it, how it can help your career and several tips to keep in mind when expanding your professional network.
What is professional networking?
Professional networking is when you build relationships with other professionals both in your career field and in other related fields. Networking allows you to foster relationships with others that are mutually beneficial to the careers of you and those in your network. The goal of professional networking is typically to be able to ask favors of people in your network and to help them in return. For example, if you are looking for a new job, you may ask someone in your professional network to put in a good word for you at their firm.
You can build a professional network in various places both online and in person. Common places where people network with others include:
College alumni clubs
Sports groups or teams composed of professionals
Conferences and expos
A current job
Online social media sites that are geared towards professionals
The more you network, the more people you can potentially lean on when you need a professional favor. This can ultimately benefit you in your career and help you reach your professional goals.
Who should you include in your professional network?
There are several people you can include in your professional network. The following are suggestions as to who you can include in your network:
If you were particularly close with any of your college professors, you should include them in your professional network. Any professors you had throughout your college career as well as specific ones who taught in your field or major can all be members of your network.
You can include former classmates from college in your professional network. Additionally, if you were part of a sorority or fraternity, you can use your brothers or sisters as your network as well.
While it may seem obvious, some people forget to include their friends in their professional network. Let your friends know of your career aspirations so they can be aware of the goals you want to accomplish in case an opportunity arises on their end.
Both former and current coworkers should be part of your professional network. Coworkers have a clear understanding of your professional capabilities, so they can help you outline achievable goals or advancements.
Members of professional clubs or associations
If you are a member of a professional organization or club, you should network with others in the organization. Mingling with people outside of your immediate work environment but still within your profession can provide new perspectives and resources.
Your family is also an important part of your professional network. Even if your immediate family isn't in your professional field, you should still keep them updated on your goals just in case a relative knows someone who could help you in your career.
Related: 7 Networking Tips for Getting a Job
How can your professional network help your career?
Your professional network can play an important role in various aspects of your career. The most obvious way is by providing potential leads to a new job. The following are additional benefits of having a professional network:
Helping find candidates for job positions
If you are in a management role and are responsible for hiring new employees, your network can help you discover a talent you may not otherwise connect with.
Learning about a job opening
If you are planning to leave your current position or have already left it and are looking for a new job, your professional network can make the process easier. The people in your network can pass along any job openings in your field that they know of and prepare you with any relevant information they have about the company.
Providing professional advice
Another great benefit of having a professional network is the advice you get from those in your network. Whether you're making a presentation or a career switch, the people in your network can often add valuable insight that can benefit your professional efforts and goals.
Finding out about potential clients
If you work in a position that requires you to find new clients and foster relationships with them, your network could provide you with potential clients and even set up the introduction in some cases.
Professional networking tips
The following are a few professional networking tips to keep in mind when expanding and fostering your professional relationships:
Focus on reaching out to the right professionals
It's important to reach out to and foster relationships with the right professionals for your networking efforts to be beneficial. Focus on meeting and building relationships with those who are in your career field or who know a lot about the career you want to pursue. This will help you get the most relevant information and advice.
Stay in touch
Once you make a new connection, it's important to keep in contact with them. If you don't regularly communicate with your network, you risk losing those relationships. The better your relationships are, the more likely your network is to help you in a time of need.
Help out your contacts
Your network isn't only there to help you when you need it. It's equally important that you be available and help out those in your network when they ask for help or your advice. This shows that you respect your contacts and can increase the likelihood that they'll return the favor when you need their help.
Say "thank you"
If someone in your network helps you out in any way, be sure to thank them. When you do show your thanks, do so in a professional way that emphasizes how their efforts helped your career. Be sure to show gratitude even if the favor is small. This can go a long way in expressing your respect for your network and showing your appreciation of the person.
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