Professional networking – a skill you need now more than ever!
Phil Soffe, Managing Consultant
Not all of us are good at networking.
In fact, for the majority of us, it feels distinctly uncomfortable. To some people it just comes naturally, but for others figuring out how to build and grow a network can be incredibly difficult. Networking may feel uncomfortable, but one thing’s for sure – this is an area that you can no longer afford to avoid!
I have seen the benefits of an engaged network on multiple occasions, from contractors effortlessly moving from one contract to another; a permanent employee moving positions without even engaging in a job search; or quite simply being able to ask for a ‘favour’ and getting a lightning fast response.
We cannot hide away from the fact that the benefits of a highly engaged network can be immense!
So how can you build and improve a more reliable network?
Before I attempt to answer that question, I typically find that circumstances play a huge part in how mature a network is. Perhaps you fall in to one of these categories:
- A long term permanent employee and your network is almost exclusively within that business.
- You’ve recently relocated to the UK, and you have limited presence within the UK
- You’ve never been out of work, and there’s never been a need to grow your network
- Or quite simply you dislike networking and despise social media!
Whatever category you fall in to, you will be pleased to hear that it’s not too late to build / improve a network. Building a network does takes time, commitment, and requires a significant effort, so don’t expect overnight results. It’s a journey and not a race!
I will focus my tips largely on LinkedIn (Facebook for Professionals!)
Here are my top 10 tips:
- Quality over quantity – Focus on the quality of your network, rather than the sheer volume. A large network isn’t necessarily a valuable network.
- Initially make the easy connections – For example ex-work colleagues, friends, alumni groups, people you’ve met on training courses etc. Then work your way through 2nd connections, recommended contacts etc. You will be surprised by how quickly the network grows.
- Think about the reason why you should connect with someone and vice-versa – For example, can you see yourself working with that person in the future? Can they provide valuable insights and interesting content? Can they introduce you to likeminded people?
- Messaging – Whenever you make a connection request, always personalise and reference wherever possible. For example: you may have been on a training course with someone, and you were impressed by their opinions and overall contribution, I’d encourage you to tell them! Reference mutual connections, content that has been produced, recommendations that have been made etc. Once connected, follow up, engage in a conversation.
- Join Groups – Proactively search for professional groups, with likeminded individuals. Start contributing to the group, share your knowledge, and expertise!
- Create and Post Content – Demonstrate to your community that you’re a thought leader in your field. Share your expertise, the more you give, the more you will receive in return. You want people to notice you!
- Comment on posted articles – I’d actively encourage you to make insightful and positive comments; and of course avoid any controversial comments! A comment on a post carries much more impact than a simple ‘like’
- Review and up-date your LinkedIn profile – Your 10 year old profile photo may look amazing, but it will need up-dating! Make sure your most recent roles are on your profile; add a summary, link to your website, interesting documents etc. People will review and make a judgement on your profile, and therefore the profile needs to look as attractive as it possibly can. I would also suggest adding key words that summarise what you do and are targeted at your areas of interest. After all you want people to find you as well!
- Take conversations off-line – Given the opportunity to take a conversation off-line then I will each time. This will really help build a stronger, long term relationship.
- Stick with it! – Don’t take your network for granted, always take the time and effort to continuously evolve your network, a strong and engaged network is powerful, and you just never know when you will have to lean on it!
Building a network can be great fun and rewarding. This is a great opportunity to build your own personal brand and demonstrate to a wide audience what makes you unique.
You will connect with some fantastic people that will provide you with support, guidance, and valuable insights. Make the most of the network and enjoy the journey!
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