Let’s start with understanding your professional network then we will go into how to start building your network.
What is a Professional Network & Why Do I Need It
A professional network is your connections otherwise known as your “social capital” – it is when you build relationships with other professionals both in your career field and other related fields. These connections could be from your current workplace or a previous workplace, or someone you met at a networking event. Unfortunately, many professionals underutilize their professional network, do not know it even exists or do not even understand its value.
Research shows that people who have a strong network tend to receive larger bonus payments, find better jobs, receive higher overall performance evaluations and get promotions earlier in their careers. For example, if you’re looking for a new job, you may ask someone in your professional network to put in a good word for you at their company or organization.
Strategically developing your network increases your access to resources, time, and the right people to achieve your goals. Often, it’s not what you know but rather it’s who you know or who knows you!
How To Start Building Your Network
There is a process involved in building a network. It’s not magical and it’s not reserved for the select few born with an inherent gift for being an extrovert or social. First, realize and understand that you need to build your network before starting and asking for support.
Next, here are three simple steps to help you get started and build your network:
Step 1: Be Aware Of Your Professional Network
Yes, your professional network does exist! You may be wondering where they are. It could be your current workplace colleagues, your references on your resume or your network in Linkedin.
Think of the people that you interact with on a daily, weekly, monthly and semi-annually basis. They are part of your network. They know who you are, what you do and the results you deliver.
Also when you start seeing and building your professional network, be sure to have a mindset that a strong network is built on mutually beneficial relationships where both parties benefit. When you meet someone, understand how you can add value and help them as well. More on the roles in your network in a later blog in our series.
Step 2: Distinguish Between Your Professional and Your Personal Network
There are clear differences between the two and it comes down to intent and action of each network. A personal network is typically for socializing and where you expect personal updates from while your professional network is used for career-oriented opportunities and to stay in touch for business opportunities such as referrals for new clients.
You may have some connections that are both in your personal and professional network, such as a friend who works for the same company.
Professional networks are used to maintain your professional identity to help you grow in your field and achieve your goals or aspirations.
Step 3: Recognize Your Strategic Relationships and Your Support Network
Think about the relationships in your connections and what you want to achieve in your career. Once you have a goal, think about who is in your network and the best way to connect with them. Your strategic relationships embody the power to reach your career and organizational goals. For example, say you want to move from a functional manager role to a business leader role in your organization. This is where your strategic relationships come in handy – you enlist the key people and groups needed to get to where you want to go. Create your network that supports your ambition and be intentional and purposeful about it.
A support network advocates for you, helping you sell your ideas across the organization and promotes you for new opportunities – they are your allies and champions. Remember to offer help to those contacts in return to help them achieve their goals.
The key takeaways are to understand that your network (your social capital) is an important part of your career journey, to keep a mutually beneficial mindset, to not limit your network and be strategic about your professional network. Once you have your professional network started, it’s a great first step to achieving your career goals and the added bonus is that it is a “portable asset” and moves with you as part of your value proposition throughout your career journey.
Have you started to build a network? Leave us a comment below and let us know how it’s going.
If you need some extra motivation or support to start, book a FREE 30mins Career Strategy Session call with our coaching expert, Maureen McKinnon.
Have a professional network and don’t know how to maintain and keep growing it? Stay tuned for our next blog in the series on how to maintain and grow your Professional Network.