How to Build Your Professional Network

By Resume Strategists Inc.

Networking is a great way to find new clients, business opportunities and speaking engagements. It’s also key to identifying those within your own company who may champion your projects or career advancement, now or down the road. Unfortunately, networking doesn’t come naturally to everyone. Some people seem to easily meet new contacts and build meaningful connections. How do they do it? Here are some tips:

Seek Out Different Types of Events
Industry conferences and professional association meetings (especially WSTA’s events!) are great ways to meet people. Learning about such topics as how technology providers can support business opportunities or managing risk through technology are not only vital to your professional growth, but can put you in contact with those who can help enrich and expand your business.

Networking within your own company can also increase your visibility and open up opportunities at all levels. Attend inter-departmental and company-wide meetings, and volunteer for new projects. Become a trusted resource and make sure your personal brand communicates that you’re a “get-it-done” kind of person. You never know what professional opportunities may arise.

Consider, too, that larger companies often have diversity and inclusion programs, so it can also be a good idea to join a group to meet people with common interests. These programs usually have smaller group meetings, so they provide an easy environment for conversation.

Social networks are often overlooked, but they too can be fertile ground when looking to meet potential business partners, vendors or clients. Join college, grad school and even high school alumni groups, and follow them on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook (in some cases) to learn about events. Consider rejoining groups, such as Greek Life societies, that you may have belonged to right after college. Participating in their activities can lead to meeting like-minded professionals who may be interested in your work.

Follow up, and Soon
It’s important to send an email soon after you meet new people and request to set up follow-up meetings and phone calls (if appropriate) while you’re still top of mind.

Equally vital to nurturing your network is connecting with your new contacts on LinkedIn (and always send a personalized connection request!). Remind them of where you met, and your headshot will communicate who you are, which may be important if your new contacts have met a lot of people recently. Sending a LinkedIn invite means they’ll have the chance to learn more about you from your profile and postings as well. You may discover that you have contacts, schools or previous employers in common that you didn’t know about. Or, you may see someone they’re connected to whom you may later ask for an introduction.

Focus on Giving vs. Receiving
Relationships are two-way streets, so share resources and make introductions to people whom you think may be beneficial for your new contact to meet.

Send articles or information about upcoming events that they may find useful and offer your expertise or assistance, if appropriate. As a new contact who provides information or help without asking for anything in return, you’ll be considered very valuable. People will see you as a resource and may recommend you to others.

Think about non-work-related ways to help, too. Perhaps they mentioned they were looking for a good new restaurant, and you’ve got the perfect recommendation. Or, they’re a runner and you know about a great half marathon coming up. Bottom line, there are many ways to give to others, so listen closely to pick up cues and be creative in your approach.

A Long-Term Relationship
Meeting and staying in communication with new contacts consists of more than one or two encounters. There are a variety of ways to stay on the radar of those you’ve met.

LinkedIn notifies you of a connection’s birthday, if they’ve added it to their profile, their work anniversary date and any promotions/job changes. These are perfect times to send a customized message. Also, a short email asking how a project is going or if you’ll see them at an upcoming industry event can also go a long way to maintaining your ties.

Networking and staying in contact with new connections are vital to business success. Attend industry, internal company and social events to meet new contacts, follow up soon afterwards, add value and stay connected. Even after you make strides to grow your business or client base, continue reaching out to strengthen connections to your network and to foster long-term professional relationships.

Resume Strategists Inc. is a leading career consulting and personal branding firm. Among our services, we work with individuals and companies across industries to strengthen their professional networks.

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