Networking—or connecting and sharing ideas and resources with your co-workers, peers at other companies and even mentors across the globe—can place a wide range of exciting new opportunities at your fingertips. And in today’s technology-driven business environments, professional networking no longer relies exclusively on face-to-face interactions but can occur inside the digital world.
Regardless of sector, networking can be a powerful tool to help advance your career. When used to its full potential, it unlocks a wide range of benefits to help you:
- Remain informed on the latest developments in your sector
- Locate a mentor in your industry to help you advance your career
- Stay up to date on professional development opportunities
- Give and receive employment referrals
- Unlock access to new perspectives and best practices in your sector
- Extend your professional resources to spark new ideas
- Receive information on current or upcoming job opportunities
Plan Your Networking Goals
Begin by assessing your overarching goals. Are you looking for new growth opportunities, relocation prospects or career changes? How can peers, mentors and experts in and out of your field help? List your answers to these questions and save them as your networking goals.
Once you’ve established these goals, consider the types of individuals you wish to incorporate into your network. A wide range of sectors allows you to gain access to diverse opinions, perspectives and experiences.
Resources to Help Build Your Professional Network
Below are some of the most highly utilized professional networking resources that will allow you to get started with building your network.
LinkedIn started as a source for HR professionals to connect with job seekers across a wide range of industries. Today, however, LinkedIn is arguably the go-to source for professional networking due to its easily navigable user interface, a large number of professional users, and intuitive system which even recommends individuals to add to your network based on shared connections, interests and experiences.
Forging meaningful professional relationships with these suggested connections should take place via a quick and informal introductory message, including your request to join the individual’s network. Explain why you are interested with connecting with the individual. Simply adding people whom you have not previously interacted with to your network without first introducing yourself doesn’t offer much value.
In addition to connecting with individuals, consider adding some diverse professional groups and businesses to your LinkedIn profile. Once added, posts from these groups appear in your news feed and provide you with an opportunity to contribute to discussions, offer thought leadership, like and share content and, possibly, forge new networking connections based on shared interests.
Quora is another networking forum which brings together a wide range of professional sectors in a question and answer-based environment. Many users find it a valuable resource for networking. You can discuss a wide range of issues and gain insight into unique perspectives and innovative practices from individuals across the globe.
Twitter’s real-time, fast-paced environment is well-suited to rapidly share information, participate in discussions about a range of topics, and, ultimately, help grow your professional network. By quickly adding hashtags to your messages, or tweets, you can jump into conversations and issues which interest you the most. Find an individual or group of interest and want to establish a connection? Simply use the “follow” feature and rapidly add them to your growing network.
As the largest social media site on the web today, Facebook is uniquely suited to help advance your networking aspirations. Facebook offers a one-stop shop for many professionals who do not have the time or desire to establish accounts on several networking sites. With a user-friendly and familiar interface at your fingertips, you can easily use Facebook to locate groups with similar professional interests, peruse upcoming networking events and much more.
Instagram is an often overlooked, but potentially lucrative networking source which boasts a user base of around 800 million daily users, half of which are millennials in the 18-29 age range. Much like Twitter, Instagram networking should heavily incorporate the use of hashtags to lock on to topics and discussions which pique your professional interests.
Due to Instagram’s innovative and intuitive display functions, content which the site believes may interest you will appear at the top of your feed. This feature helps eliminate the need to scroll through hundreds of unrelated posts before locking on to content that appeals to you.
While focused heavily toward the tech sector and targeted to developers, Stack Overflow offers a wide range of resources to share programming knowledge and enhance career growth opportunities. IT professionals or those looking to learn more about this growing industry should check it out.
Although networking today relies heavily on digital sources, the art of building personal connections is still valuable. Personal bonds forged face-to-face with a handshake and smile always go a long way.
To capitalize on opportunities for personal interaction and in-person networking, keep your eyes open for conferences or informal gatherings via apps like Meetup. Meetup helps locate other professionally-minded individuals in your industry in your local area and allows you to set up networking events quickly and easily.