Artwork by: Fagiani
Wondering whether you can master the art of professional networking? The answer is yes! Open new doors, boost your skill set, and advance your career by learning how to master professional networking.
Approaching someone you have never met before at a conference and introducing yourself is daunting to most people. Unless you have confidence in abundance, it can be easier to just avoid the situation and think that you are never going to be great at networking. But is it possible for you to learn how to master professional networking?
The answer is yes! Whether you are a recent graduate or a seasoned executive, honing your professional networking skills is something you can learn and master. Networking is actually really important for your career. It can open new doors, enhance your skills, and even provide you with new job opportunities.
In this article we explore:
What is professional networking?
Why is networking important?
Four tips to master professional networking
"The richest people in the world look for and build networks, everyone else looks for work." - Robert Kiyosaki, American entrepreneur, businessman and author
Professional networking involves building mutually beneficial relationships with other industry professionals. It’s putting yourself out there, whether this is in-person or online, so you can meet fellow professionals and develop a strong network of contacts.
This network functions as a group of professional contacts who you can provide favors for, and in return they can help you out too. For example, you might ask someone to put a good word in for you at their company if you are applying for a job there.
There are three types of professional networking:
Operational networking - developing intra-organizational relationships a.k.a. building stronger connections with your colleagues.
Personal networking - meeting other industry professionals that work in different organizations with the goal of enhancing their careers
Strategic networking - a combination of the above two types of networking
You can build your network in many different ways including networking events, alumni clubs, conferences and industry events, your current job, sports teams, social events, and via social media sites such as LinkedIn.
Blending these approaches will help ensure your network will become larger, stronger, and more influential on your career as well as enabling you to achieve your professional goals.
According to a LinkedIn global survey, almost 80% of professionals consider professional networking to be important to career success.
There are many benefits to professional networking, aside from the most typically highlighted advantage of securing a new job opportunity. Here are the top five reasons that professional networking is critical for your career.
Networking provides an amazing chance to learn about new and emerging trends and developments in your industry. While you don’t have to always stay in the same lane in terms of your specific industry, it’s likely you will be meeting people who work in the same or similar sector at networking events who you can learn from and share information with.
Many job openings are not advertised immediately, so networking may get you ahead of the pack. If there is an internal promotion or an exciting role with another company, your network can let you know about it first and put in a good word for you! Vice versa, you can help one of your professional contacts by giving them the heads up on an interesting job opening.
Industry experts and experienced professionals can provide you with top tips and amazing insights, particularly if you are a recent graduate or new to the sector. Ensure you are networking in the right places where these individuals tend to mingle.
If you meet an interesting contact at a conference or industry event, make sure you ask them to connect on LinkedIn or at least exchange contact details. Mention that you would like to catch up in the future as you value their experience and insights.
You may have been given the heads up on a potential job opportunity or found a job advert that looks perfect but heard on the grapevine that the company isn’t the best to work for in terms of leadership or company culture.
Here your professional network can potentially help you out with some honest feedback from an insider’s perspective. Instead of taking a leap of faith and potentially crashing to the ground, you can make a more informed decision on your next career move.
Professional networking helps build strong reputations. Done the right way, you can become known as reliable, supportive, and a knowledgeable industry professional. You may even reach the dizzying heights of “industry expert!” A strong reputation is also a magnet for career opportunities, job offers, and business partnerships.
Practice active listening when networking. Show that you are engaged, respectful, and selfless. This will impress potential contacts and make them more willing to listen to you.
Be too self-obsessed. Make your priority to share advice and tips with others so you can establish yourself as someone people can trust and respect.
Following these four top tips will help you master professional networking and take your career to new heights:
Be strategic! Connect with people who can help you achieve your professional goals rather than building your network as a numbers game. Focus on people in your career lane or, if you are looking for a change in direction, focus on establishing connections with people in that industry.
Maintaining contact with your professional network is vital, as otherwise they may just forget about you. Just be mindful in terms of how many times you contact them. Email periodically to catch up with your connections. Set up calendar reminders every six weeks so you can touch base with your close contacts. Forwarding a relevant and interesting article is another way to connect without being intrusive.
Ensure you are responsive and helpful to your professional network when they reach out for your help or advice. This will show your respect for them and also make them more inclined to help you when you need some support.
Show your appreciation to contacts in your network if they help you out in any way. Apart from actually thanking them for their help and advice, you should also do this in a professional way. LinkedIn offers the opportunity to make a post or write a recommendation that just might help this person advance their career too.
Network, network, and network! Professional networking can open lots of doors for you in terms of career advancement, learning new skills, and industry trends.
Make sure you develop your network in different ways. Use both online and offline networking channels to build a network with lots of reach.
Be open to helping others in your professional network as this will make them more likely to help you out in the future, and remember to thank them when they help you.
Helen is an experienced freelance writer with a strong background in job search and career advice, in particular resume best practices, interviewing, and personal and professional development. Before Career.io, Helen worked for high-profile recruitment firms and in the field of HR management, so she has a strong sense of what recruiters are looking for in a potential employee as well as experience in supporting career growth and development.