It’s not just about what you know, but who you know. Even with the most advanced skills, you may need a connection in the industry to help you navigate your career path. One of the best things you can do, no matter what industry you want to get into, is to form your professional network. So, whether you’re looking for a mentor, a job, a referral or just someone who understands your industry, here are some tips to help you form your network:
Use Your Online Presence
Utilizing social media platforms, especially LinkedIn, is one of the best ways to make professional connections in today’s day and age. The internet not only allows you to connect with professionals from around the world, but creates a platform that can ease the anxiety of the “first meeting.” If you don’t already, set up a LinkedIn account and then stay active on that platform. Send requests to people in your desired industry, stay relevant by posting articles concerning your career field and don’t be afraid to use the chat feature to start a conversation.
Attend Conferences, Fairs & Networking Events
While the internet is helpful in starting connections, having a face-to-face interaction is still one of the best ways to get professionals to remember you. Most people attend conferences, fairs and networking events to make connections with others. These are individuals who are seeking and offering expertise, removing the awkwardness in bringing up “work talk.” Many of these events also have a digital platform with opportunities for connection to assist you in networking outside of your area.
Talk to Who You Know
Sometimes, some of your best connections are the ones you’ve already formed. Talk to friends, family members, professors, teachers, coaches and any other connections you already have about your career goals and aspirations. Even if these individuals work in a completely opposite field to where you work, they may still be able to give you a letter of recommendation, job searching tips or connect you with their own connections that have the information you’re looking for.
Once You Make Connections, Work to Keep Them
Once you establish a connection with someone, put in the work to keep them. Like any relationship, a connection can easily be lost if you don’t put in the work to keep them. Chat online, send a follow up email or invite them out to coffee or lunch to continue your professional conversations. This will make a good impression and establish a stronger connection.
Remember What You Have to Offer
Much like a friendship, having a professional connection requires both parties to put in the effort. Think of how you can offer your services to your connection. Maybe you excel in a sector of your job where your connection isn’t as strong or know someone who can fulfill a need your professional connection needs. By ensuring you give as much as you get, your connection will strengthen and can provide even more opportunities in the future.