How to Expand Your Professional Network

Whether or not you’re currently in search of a new position or career, it is always a good idea to continuously be growing your network. You just never know when the time will come that you are in need of a change and if you keep your circle big, hopefully sometime down the line you are able to put someone else in contact with the right people as well.

When most people hear the term “networking”, they envision a cocktail party that comprises of hustlers handing out their business cards wondering who they can meet that will skyrocket them to the top. While that is definitely one of the better known ways to network, there are many other ways to meet and develop business and personal relationships with people both in-person and virtually.

Here are 5 ideas for expanding your network:

  1. TAKE ADVANTAGE OF SOCIAL MEDIA

This one sounds obvious, but the majority of people use social networking platforms solely as a way of staying in touch with long-distance family members or old friends from high school and college. If you use your social media as a way of growing your personal brand, it can be an incredibly useful tool. Get involved in industry related groups and forums, post or share links about industry related topics on your page, comment and engage on posts relevant to your field or interests. This will give you a ton of credibility and you’ll start to be seen as a go-to person for job/industry knowledge. Networking isn’t just about asking, it’s also about giving.

In the case that you are attending an event such as a convention or trade show, reach out to others who are attending and get to know some of them before the day of. If you prefer not to mix business with personal, you can always set up a separate account specifically for networking.

  1. MAKE A LIST

Even if you don’t have your own business, you should still have an email list. Begin with listing out everyone that you know professionally from college, internships, past jobs, past events, etc. Include their email and where they live. Then expand to friends of friends. Keep adding to your list every time you make a connection and be sure to keep in touch with each person from time to time. This can look like a phone call or text, an email, or a direct message on social media. Staying on people’s radar is key; don’t just create the list and then ditch it. Networking is equally about being seen and keeping people in mind.

  1. SPEND TIME IN THE RIGHT SOCIAL SPOTS

Ask yourself, “If I wanted to run into more people in my industry, where would they be spending time?” What coffee shop do they have regular meetings? What bar do they have company happy hours once per month? If there is a certain industry professional you want to meet who regularly hosts or attends specific events, make it a point to be there. And then, be sure you introduce yourself and engage in meaningful conversation. The point of attending these events is to get to know people and for them to get to know you. Be sure you make yourself known by being friendly and cordial, and having something valuable to bring to the table.

  1. PERFORM GOOD NETWORKING DEEDS

In the long term, people are going to remember the kind things you did for them. A few times per week or per month, choose a few people and do something to benefit their personal brand. Endorse them on LinkedIn, leave their company a good review on Yelp, connect two people you know, recommend them to the write people. There is an endless list of ways you can make a professional, kind gesture for someone. People will remember when you did this and will be glad to return the favor.

  1. Consider Volunteering

When you put yourself out there, you just never know who you’re going to meet. And, depending on what type of volunteering you are doing, you may even have a chance to show people some of your skills and work ethic. Opportunities often come from being in the right place at the right time, so the more you make an effort to be involved, the higher your chances are of finding something. People will also remember your assistance and will think of you when an opportunity becomes available.

Whoever you meet, be sure to add them to your contact list.

As you can see, there are many different paths you can take to growing your network. Remember, growing a network takes time, so be patient as you’re expanding.

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