How to build your professional network
A professional network is so much more than how many people have your business card or how many likes your posts attract on LinkedIn. It is all the quality of the relationships.
Most people understand about how important a professional network is but struggle to know how to build one.
For me the big question is, but how do you build a quality professional network?
This is a question I have been thinking about for a while. I know a lot of people keep their professional networks on the back burner until they need something from it. I get it – it is a time thing.
I have distilled a whole lot of information combined with my own experiences, to bring you the 6 critical things you need to consider when building your professional network.
#1 – WHY IS BUILDING YOUR NETWORK IMPORTANT TO YOU?
As with everything, it is important to start with ‘WHY.’
Why is building your network important to you?
You can have a great life with a small network, so why invest time in nurturing and growing your professional network.
This is a great question and one that will help to examine what is important from a network perspective.
Here are some things to consider:
My professional network is important to me so that:
- I can contact with others outside of my current circle
- Finding collaborators to work with on new opportunities
- Grow my influence in my industry
- Find people in a new industry that I am keen to find out about
- Give back to my community
- Raise my profile
- Connect with potential suppliers/customers
What are other drivers about building your professional network?
#2 – WHAT IS YOUR VISION FOR YOUR PROFESSIONAL NETWORK?
Having a vision for your network is very important. It uses the ‘WHY’ of your professional network and brings in your aspirations.
The purpose of outlining your vision for your network are to provide you with a direction. Taking time to craft your vision statement is a great way to visualise what you want your future (from a networking perspective) to look like.
Example networking vision statements are:
Networking vision statement #1:
To build a network of people who are passionate about women in project management
Networking vision statement #2:
To build a network of industry leaders who I can learn from about fintech
Networking vision statement #3:
To build a local community of like minded people in the Sydney area.
#3 – WHO DO YOU WANT IN YOUR NETWORK?
Including the right people in your professional network can aid your career success and offer opportunities for you to give back to others.
The following list provides suggestions for where you can start to build your network:
- Industry experts
- Local community
- Creative leaders
- People outside of your community
- People who do similar roles in other countries
- Anyone you want
#4 – HOW MUCH TIME ARE YOU GOING TO DEDICATE TO GROWING YOUR PROFESSIONAL NETWORK?
Nurturing your professional network takes time. The more time you invest, the better your network will be. Like anything if you don’t set aside time for building these important relationships, it will never happen.
How much time are you going to schedule for nurturing your professional network:
- 30 mins a day
- 2 hours a week
- 6 hours a week
- an hour a week
There is no right answer – devoting even a small amount of time is going to assist you in building your professional network.
#5 – WHERE ARE YOU GOING TO BUILD YOUR NETWORK?
One of the important questions is – where are you going to build your network. What type of events/forums are you going to attend to grow your professional network?
- In person at events (professional groups, networking groups)
- At work
- Virtually (LinkedIn)
- Local community
- Virtual events (webinars etc)
#6 – HOW ARE YOU GOING TO ACHIEVE YOUR PROFESSIONAL NETWORK VISION?
Having a plan/approach on how to achieve your vision, is important in order to maximise the time you have available.
Here are some suggestions on how to grow your network:
- Comment on other people’s LinkedIn posts
- Reach out to people on LinkedIn
- Attend a virtual/in person event monthly
- Follow up with people you have worked with previously
- Meet for coffee catch ups
- Meet virtually for happy hour or coffee
- Help someone with a problem they have
- Offer to connect someone with a member(s) of your community
You never know how you’re how your professional network will be able to help you or how you can inspire/help others to achieve their goals.
Schedule 10 minutes this week to contemplate the steps outlines above about how you can build your professional network.