Knowing how to network effectively can often be a tricky one to get right. Here, Nick Bush offers his tips on how to establish a well-connected professional network.
Networking is as important as it's ever been in today’s business world, and it’s now easier than ever to connect with colleagues and industry influencers. More and more people are obtaining professional and academic qualifications every year; in the decade between 2002 and 2012, the total number of under- and postgraduate qualifications obtained increased by more than half, from 557,790 to 787,900. Statistics like this starkly illustrate that, in a job market as competitive as ours, it’s important to seek every advantage possible; a well-connected professional network is just one of the better ones.
However, it’s fair to say that the number of methods and opportunities available to a diligent networker actually pose an amusing problem - with so much choice, where do you start? When it comes to making a professional connection in a society as connected as ours, it’s extremely easy to get lost in the options available to you. The best approach is a focussed one. Expand your networking reach and methodology once you have made effective use of the networking tips detailed below:
Leverage social media to your advantage
We’re all familiar with social media, so I’m not going to use this tip to patronise you. This tip is mainly about reiterating social media’s purpose; sharing your interests and finding other people and groups and individuals to share your passions with. This ethos works just as well at building a professional network as it does a social one. Following key industry influencers on Twitter isn’t ‘sucking up’, it’s sourcing the latest tips and tricks for being more effective at your job, and learning what it takes to make it in your chosen profession. Maximise the professional information that you display on all social media sites; by doing this you make it as easy as possible to be connected with other professionals in your business area. If this doesn’t get you into the social circles of the high-flying professionals, who you feel you would benefit most from knowing, it should certainly get you closer.
Get yourself noticed in your industry
This networking tip builds on the one introduced in the social media section above; but this is more about taking an active approach to getting known in your industry. Setting up a detailed LinkedIn profile is an excellent idea, of course, but actively posting enthusiastic, relevant blog posts is a great way to attract positive attention from the movers and shakers of your professional area. Starting a bespoke blog full of well-informed articles about your personal role, and the surrounding business sector, is an easy way to make a positive impact on industry peers. If their introduction to you is also useful to them, or, even better, helps them to solve a problem, you will already be in their good books.
Collaboration benefits everyone
What should be apparent from the tip above is that the best way to connect with someone is to offer something into the bargain. Professional collaboration is another key way of doing this; you exchange the benefits of your expertise and professional knowledge, in return for those of other colleagues and peers. This is often an easier technique to perform within your own workplace; it’s much easier to ascertain when a colleague needs assistance with accomplishing a particular objective, and generally much easier and more practical for you to lend your own time and energies, as you’ll most likely be working towards the same, or at the very least, connected goals.
This way you gain something, the colleague(s) in question gain something, and your company ultimately gains something too. Everyone wins, and you get a chance to get to know, and network with, a colleague who you may have otherwise known little about. Outside of the workplace, collaboration as a networking tool works in much the same way. Many professionals are just as happy to share their knowledge as they are to gain yours, so outreach efforts for collaborative work will often be met enthusiastically. Demonstrate your worth as a professional, and therefore as a contact.
Take advantage of events
Get involved! Attend relevant professional exhibitions and conferences; not only is there an immediate benefit to you being able to absorb the latest tips and tricks from your chosen field, but it provides another crucible in which you can meet peers from your industry, exchange ideas, and get noticed. As with many of these networking solutions, the more you put in, the more you will get out. If you speak or exhibit at one of these events, you’ll be able to demonstrate your knowledge and confidence to a broad cross section of peers and potential contacts.
On a smaller scale, team building events and activities are a great venue for getting to know other colleagues. In big companies especially, this can prove to be difficult as part of an average working day. If it’s been historically difficult for you to meet other departments, there’s no better way to put a name to a face, or pave the way to future collaboration, than to work together on a team building challenge. Whether this is finding the perpetrator of a heinous crime, or driving around the English countryside in a mini solving ‘The Italian Job' themed challenges, team building events are a superb way to strengthen company ties and expand your professional network.
Nick Bush is a content writer for BlueHat Group Ltd