The key to expanding and strengthening a professional network is developing relationships. It is never too late in a career to start building meaningful connections among coworkers, colleagues, and career professionals. Although there are numerous ways to expand your network, these are the five methods we have found to be the most effective.
1. Stay Active on Social Networks
Using social networks and media platforms is one of the best ways to connect with professionals and stay well-informed about industry news applicable to your career. It might not come as a surprise, but LinkedIn is one of the most highly recommended platforms to help grow one’s professional network. LinkedIn provides users with a plethora of tools for job searching, career groups, and skill learning.
A strong LinkedIn profile can invite new connections, recruiters, clients, and other professionals. LinkedIn’s social setting can also be used to your networking advantage. You can post about your industry, publish relevant content, and engage with those in your network by liking, commenting on, and sharing their posts.
Participating in volunteer work is an impactful way to make professional connections with like-minded individuals while also giving back to the community. Volunteering also opens the door to acquiring new skills and building your portfolio. There is a high chance that the other people volunteering their time will also share the same passion levels and can even become networking partners.
Volunteer opportunities are everywhere and finding them can be as simple as word of mouth or a quick search on the internet. Use sites such as volunteermatch.org that can cater opportunities to match your industry, interests, and current skillset.
3. Attend Conferences and Virtual Events.
Regardless of size and topic, attending an in-person or online conference can be daunting. Conferences offer great opportunities to meet and greet industry speakers and various types of professional attendees. There are many types of conferences, and some may be more beneficial than others when it comes to networking. Be it a conference, webinar, tradeshow, workshop, or seminar it is important to put in the time to research which event is the right fit for YOU!
4. Reconnect with Current Contacts
A technique for developing one’s network that is often overlooked is socializing and reconnecting with previous contacts. There is a good chance that you may already have a vast network that already shares your professional goals and interests. Your existing network may include current/former coworkers, friends, family members, mentors, classmates, etc.
You might be surprised at how reconnecting with previous contacts can open the door to new opportunities and connections. If not for anything else, your current network can be used for referrals and references.
5. Attend Networking Events
Lastly, one of the best methods of forming new connections is to attend a networking event! Networking events are full of professionals with the same goal: connecting! There are tons of different events hosted that span across multiple colleges/alumni events to industry-specific associations. It can be a good practice to not limit yourself to just your industry, but to branch out to other fields. You can find upcoming networking events in your community or on sites such as eventbrite.com.