Building a Professional Network

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Whether you are a university student, mid-level worker or a business owner, everyone needs a professional supporting system! This is our safety cushion to land opportunities and grow. From students to senior employees, networking is the most effective way to land a job opportunity. As for business owners, who are eager to expand their customer base and score partnership deals, networking is essential and requires time and focus. In this article, we will discuss ways to increase your professional network and its etiquette.

Online Networking

Online tools are becoming fundamental in every aspect of our lives. We use them to shop, organise, share ideas and most of all Network!! Networking through social media started back in 1997 with SixDegrees.com founded by Andrew Weinreich. Then, the idea grew and developed further. Now we have several platforms with different identities: professional, dating, fun… To grow our professional network, online platforms are considered as an easy and effective way since everyone can be reached with a few clicks!!

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is the go-to platform for professional usage. You can search for any company of your interest and take a look at its employees. Recruiters rely mostly on LinkedIn to hunt for potential candidates. On the other side, candidates use this platform to search for vacancies. Therefore, everyone needs to maximize its usage! Here are some basic tips for you!!

  1. KEEP YOUR PROFILE UPDATED.
  2. Make sure your profile picture and cover are professional.
  3. Tailor, you’re heading toward your career preference.
  4. Use the “Talk about” hashtags to highlight your topics of interest.
  5. Use keywords in your Summary to attract recruiters to your profile.
  6. Describe your work below every Job title. Recruiters look at your LinkedIn to learn more about you beyond your CV.
  7. Tailor your skills toward your career path and ask some friends/family to endorse you.
  8. Follow groups and influencers related to your field.
  9. Learn to utilize the filter tool.
Instagram

Instagram is usually used for sharing our stories and life posts. Recently, Harvard Business Review (June 06, 2022) wrote about the power of this platform to build business connections. Being less crowded with professional askes makes it more likely for people to respond to our message. BE CAREFUL, not to look like a scam or to be annoying!! Connecting on Instagram requires more patience and engagement. This is a great networking strategy for anyone in the field of art, blogging, or social media…

Other Social Media Platforms

There are several social media platforms to connect such as Twitter, Facebook, and Meetup. It is important to diversify our presence and pick the platforms that suit best our geographical location and career interest.

Professional events

Old ways never die!! Personally attending career events, and talking to people in the lobby is a nice way to increase your professional network. Human interaction has a better chance to get saved in the memory, so when you follow up online, the response rate is high. Harvard Business Review (September 26, 2016) mentioned several inconveniences of this traditional method such as inconsistent results, time-consuming and personal agendas of the attendees such as scoring a client and brand awareness. Inconsistency and time should be expected from any networking strategy as building connections can’t be guaranteed and requires effort. Here are some tips to make the most of those events:

  1. Dress Professionally. Don’t underestimate first impressions!!
  2. Take a packet of your Business Cards. Sharing your business card will allow people to follow up with you.
  3. Google The Speakers prior to the event. It is important to get to know the people on the panel: their background, company, and point of view. It would be nice to interact with the speakers and ask them questions.
  4. Learn about the topic before going. After the event and during breaks, people tend to network, discuss the topic and chat. Having an opinion and commenting on the topic will make you stand out.

Double Dating

Yup Double dating! Its concept is similar to its romantic counterpart. It is when you invite some of your professional connections to a setting (dinner, coffee, drinks…) and you ask them to invite anyone that they think you should meet. This strategy is the most effective due to its private, deep and exclusive nature.

Networking Etiquette

  • Patience:
    • Networking is not supposed to be easy. It requires time, effort and research. Many people won’t reply to your messages and it is okay! First, you need to build up the relationship before sending a private message. Then, you need to stay in touch with your connection for example by liking or commenting on their posts.
  • Two-way street:
    • No one likes selfish people and it is ideal to give before you take. Your business network is an exchange of favours. You help someone at times and you get help from others, this is how life goes.
  • Cold Messaging:
    • Private messages should be personal, professional and written with a cold tone.
  • Follow up:
    • When you ask a person for professional help, it is nice to keep them in the loop. For example: If you ask a recruiter to introduce you to someone from the team to learn more about a position. It would be nice to text back to the recruiter thanking them and telling them how your conversation went with the team member.
  • Authentic and Vulnerable:
    • The human touch is always appreciated. When you speak be honest, and clear and don’t be afraid to show vulnerability. People tend to be more engaged when a personal and human aspect is shared.
  • Work for the Long Run:
    • Keep in mind your network is not for only one goal. Therefore, you need to stay engaged with your connections and work on nurturing them.

Conclusion

To conclude, building a professional network is essential for our career progression. Building our network can be done through an online or physical setting. In all cases, it is important to respect and master the networking etiquette to grow and maintain our connections.

Reference

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