Professional networking is used to describe the building of relationships solely for one’s career benefit. The relationship is based on the mutual benefit of the career progression of all the parties involved. It is vital for career growth as it helps these relations help in one’s development of skill, experience, advancement, etc.
What is Professional Networking?
Definition – Professional networking is defined as an activity that helps an individual to build and maintain relationships with other people to fulfill his goals and professional ambitions. So, if you want to advance your career, you should build professional networks.
A professional network is referred to as establishing connections that are mutually beneficial for the involved parties. It is a tool focused on interactions and maintaining relationships of professional nature by attending business meetings, events, conferences, etc.
Importance of a Professional Network
The importance of professional networks is vast because of the following reasons –
- Job seekers consider professional network blessing as a personal recommendation is considered invaluable from a trusted source
- It is essential to set up a professional network in place from the very beginning as it will pay dividends throughout your life
- One never knows when a person might need help in climbing the career ladder hence it is essential to maintain it
- The importance of a professional network is that being part of a network provides access to tacit knowledge as well as confidential information that is not easily available through other channels
- Professional networking is essential as you might find a mentor who will prove a tremendous blessing in guiding you through your career path and recommending you to influential people
- The importance of a professional network is that it gives an insider’s view on essential things. It also offers vital information related to the industry you belong to and the challenges you might face shortly
Types of Professional Networks
The three types of professional networks are as follows-
The operational type of professional network refers to an internal network and a strong working relationship with colleagues in your organization.
To build an operational network, an employee has to reach out to lateral colleagues in the other departments of its organization and create a robust and dependable network. The contacts in the operational network help in achieving short-term goals by completing work or a task basis.
The personal type of professional network refers to relationships outside your organization with like-minded people belonging to a diverse group. Its purpose is to improve an employee’s professional as well as personal development and offering referrals to useful contacts.
This type of professional network encourages involvement in charitable organizations, professional associations, and other activities that will broaden your network outside your organization.
The strategic type of professional network refers to a combination of the above two types of networking where intra-organizational and personal needs can be met adequately because networking is both internal and external.
It builds connections and keeps an individual professionally relevant. Its purpose is to figure out priorities and secure support for it. Strategic networking is essential for sharing ideas related to best practices, keeping an eye on development in business, learning new approaches, gaining leverages and helping to see the bigger picture.
Who Should You Include in Your Professional Network?
To make one’s networking relevant, one has to make sure that they have chosen the right set of people. Given below are some of the suggestions to build professional connection;
One doesn’t have to worry about how to conduct themselves in front of friends. Belonging to the different walks of life or career fields, friends can be helpful to contacts in one’s networking.
Seeking professional contact with the classmate can be easy for both the parties involved due to being aware of each other’s potential. One can later take advantage of it in career growth and vice versa.
Professors are seasoned individuals with a lot of experience and connections. Having good relations with one’s professors since college time is later going to be beneficial.
4. Family member
Include one’s family members in the list of a professional network. It does not matter whether such members are distant or close; try approaching these people for the sake of career growth.
5. Members of associations or clubs
There are various association or clubs which one join to be a part of the community. People from different walks of life gather around for a common goal. Establishing a formal relationship with such people is sure to provide one with additional resources and a fresh perspective.
Network Events for Professional Relationships
The various types of professional networking events are as follows-
1. Breakfast networking
The best way to start your day is to meet influential people for breakfast and share valuable information. Breakfast meetings keep you ahead and provide a great chance to forward your pitch.
This type of professional network is beneficial as you can interact with a potential employer or client before he has the chance to relate with other influencers.
2. After-hours networking
One of the most popular as well as structured professional network groups is after-hours networking. In this type of networking people generally exchange their most crucial networking tool, the business cards in an informal setting.
The groups are often sponsored by more substantial organizations like a civic or social club, a local chamber of commerce, or a convention bureau. The idea behind creating this type of professional network group is to provide an opportunity where people can meet and communicate with total strangers in a relaxed atmosphere.
3. Industry-specific events
Attend industry-specific events as they are directly related to your job profile. Important speakers grace these occasions and share their experiences.
You will get a chance to meet with people who are directly related to your industry and pick their brains on essential matters. It is a golden chance to create, build and increase professional network
4. Roundtable events
This type of professional network is most useful for people who are interested in communication and interaction with their peers. Roundtable events include open forums and discussions that will result in creative ideas, golden opportunities, and new directions.
5. Happy-hour meet-ups
In a professional network, happy-hour meet-ups are events that provide a relaxed atmosphere for making small talks and approaching strangers in a casual setting.
6. Online networking
One of the most important types of professional networks is online networking. There are lots of forums and groups that allow the legitimate building of professional as well as personal relationships, effective communication, and numerous problem-solving methods.
Professional Networking Tips
The following tips will prove beneficial in building robust professional networks-
1. Set goals
The first tip related to professional networks is to set goals. Think carefully and determine the purpose of attending an event, seminar, conference, etc., and create a viable strategy based on that observation. The plan you develop must have clear goals so that you can follow them properly
2. Reach out
Build a relationship by reaching out to the right people as it will help in creating a network that will prove beneficial in your career. It includes friends, family members, colleagues, managers, peers, etc., anyone you think can help in advancing your profession.
3. Keep in touch
You might know a lot of people but when was the last time you had contact with them. Invest in relationships by keeping in touch and making contact at regular intervals.
This will make your relationship stronger, and you can ask anyone for a personal recommendation anytime without hesitation
4. Dress appropriately
Make sure you know the dress code for the event you are attending. In case of doubt, pick an outfit that is washed and ironed and has a professional look. It is not right to look disorganized or casual at such events as it will result in the wrong impression
5. Carry business cards
Today’s young generation might consider carrying business cards old-fashioned, but they are still the thing to do in professional circles. Keep the cards in a card case and take them out from it in front of others.
This will create a good impression and result in a fruitful professional network.
6. Show up early at events
An important tip that is very useful in a professional network is showing up a bit early at events. The crowds are lighter at this time and will provide you with numerous opportunities for conversation and productive interactions.
7. Be punctual
If you are unable to be early, then at least be punctual and arrive on time. This quality will be appreciated by one and all as it shows that you value time. It speaks highly about your character and demonstrates your true nature.
8. Create an online network
There are numerous professional network sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Academia, Instagram, and Slideshare that work beautifully through the internet. These tools help in keeping touch and making powerful connections hence maintain a high-level activity to maintain relationships
9. Attend networking events
Face-to-face talks are the best way to boost your chances of success through professional networks. Be present at events and business functions where you can meet lots of talented people.
It includes trade fairs, conferences, educational events, and social events. Be active and engage in small talks initially to enter into important circles.
Remember it is your positive communication, sunny smile, and charming disposition that will hold you in good stead hence be charismatic while maintaining influential people. Personal interaction and engagement will help to create and maintain a viable network that will be a help in times of need
10. Keep the conversation a bit informal
A professional network is related to your profession, no doubt. Still, it is necessary to create a personal relationship with people who will prove useful later on. Keep the conversation light, friendly and informal, and do not make a sales pitch initially.
It is a proven fact that listening is more important than talking. It is easy to join in any conversation just by listening to the ongoing conversation. It shows that you are paying attention and such people leave a good mark on others
It is important to let others know that you are also influential and can provide value. Share information and contacts as it will increase your professional networks.
Sharing will beget trust and form healthy relationships.
13. Pay attention to your body language
Keep your posture open with shoulders back, spine straight, head up and arms and legs uncrossed. This will make you look amiable, and people will approach you without hesitation.
Do not forget to maintain a gentle smile as it looks welcoming. Make eye contact while speaking, as it will show your confident nature.
14. Do favors
Professionals networking is a two-way street. You cannot expect favors until and unless you dole out a few. If you get the chance of helping someone grab it and help him out.
These things are not forgotten and in time of need will be returned with interest
15. Stay relevant
Stay up-to-date with new developments that are happening in and around your surroundings. Learn new things and share the knowledge with your network. Staying relevant will keep you in the loop and boost your professional networking capabilities
16. Take notes
An individual will talk to several people in an event, and only a few are essential for him. Keep a tiny notebook with you and write down important information in them so that you can refer to it later on.
17. Follow-up connections
Once you have created a contact, it becomes crucial to maintain that connection. Get in touch with them within a short interval. This will show that you are interested in carrying forward the link, learn more about them, and want to work with them in some capacity
Advantages of Professional Networks
The advantages of professional networking are as follows-
- It helps in hearing about job opportunities and raising your profile. As you are visible in the right circles, you build a reputation for being knowledgeable
- It helps in job search and making significant moves related to your professional career
- It is one of the most significant sources of knowledge about new perspectives and fresh ideas that can be a tremendous help in your day-to-day job
- It helps in clearing the first few stages of the interview process easily because of the personal recommendation of a trusted source and make you the frontrunner for the position
- It is the best source to learn about best practices and new trends
- It helps to boost your interpersonal skills
- It builds self-confidence. Attending events might look intimidating at first, but with time it becomes easier and helps to build a confident poise
Disadvantages of Professional Networks
The disadvantages are as follows-
- All your professional networking efforts will not prove fruitful. In some cases, a person takes part in several events and still is unable to develop a useful contact. It is then considered a wasted effort in such circumstances
- During professional networking, there is a higher risk of luring away a reasonable employee from the organization
- Professional networking might look overwhelming and intimidating to employees who are shy and introverted by nature
Professional networking is a vital key that can open new doors of opportunities if done right. Reciprocate and help others, and you will suddenly find yourself amongst one of the best networking groups.
In today’s fast-paced world, professional networking is a blessing in disguise that helps in climbing the career ladder easily and quickly.
Either you want to find a job, or you want to change your current company and get a new job in a new company, or you are an online professional looking for freelance jobs, you should build relationships with a group of people in your profession.
You never know how your professional relationship can help you get new opportunities.