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Grow Your Professional Network with These Foolproof Strategies

Professional networking is an art which many of us have failed to master. A professional network is a group of peers who work or participate in a community you’re involved with. Networks can be very broad or narrow in reach. If you work in the financial industry, you might consider your professional network to only be made up of only individuals who work, or have worked, in the financial sector. A broader professional network can consist of almost anyone in any type of community, however. It can comprise old professors, family members of friends, people from your extracurricular activities, even the aspiring author who lives next door.

Networking, or the act of making new professional connections, is commonly seen to be of vital importance for career development. There are many benefits of networking including finding a support structure, learning about new opportunities, and making your personal brand more visible. Check out Career Addict’s post on 10 Important Benefits of Networking.

Stepping out of your comfort zone to do additional work can seem like a daunting challenge. The mental image of a snobby cocktail party and awkward grandstanding might spring to mind. But networking doesn’t have to be painful. That’s why I’ve put together a few foolproof strategies anyone can employ to grow their professional network.

Participate

Participating in any form of activity shows enthusiasm, likability, and helps others associate action with your personal brand. The act of participating can be as small as offering to go to fetch napkins from the lunch area or can be as large as attending the optional sessions of a company conference. Participating in even small ways lets people know that you’re engaged. You can participate in a group conversation by actively asking questions, or you can participate by offering your yard up for the company picknick. Whether your actions are large or small, beginning to participate in the goings-on around you will help you grow your network.

Make small talk

If you’re not ready to jump right into a conversation with someone new about your latest entrepreneurial ideas, start with small talk. Small talk is an excellent way to break the ice and get to know someone on a personal level. In fact, relationships which are established with a degree of familiarity often turn out to be the most positive. Knowing a little about the person’s family life, their hobbies, and their dreams can go a long way to starting a meaningful dialogue. It will also help you remember names and faces if you’re overwhelmed by meeting too many new people. Small talk is an easy step any of us can take to begin communicating with someone new in order to add them to our professional network.

“Networking is simply starting a conversation with no destination in mind.”
– Kathryn Crawford Wheat  Tweet: “Networking is simply starting a conversation with no destination in mind.”

– Kathryn Crawford Wheat https://bit.ly/2BP8sP1 #career #professional #networking

Offer help

If someone is attempting a new project, needs to be introduced to someone, or is even carrying something heavy, offering help can be the beginning to a fruitful relationship. In some situations, it’s awkward to walk up to someone and say “Hey, I want to get to know you!” Actually, that’s always awkward, don’t do that. But if you feel you might be able to offer them something, that is a natural conversation starter. It also shows that you care about more than what is in it for yourself. Remember to ask in a polite manner, however. Don’t insinuate that they need the help because of some fault of their own.

Volunteer

If you’re not ready to join the networking association at your local golf club, volunteering is an excellent way to make a name for yourself in your community. The best part is, you can pick the area which holds the most interest for yourself! This is a chance for you to not only pursue your own interests but to do good in your community while meeting other like-minded individuals. If you’re at a loss for where to start, I would recommend looking up your local United Way chapter or another volunteer association. There are undoubtedly countless opportunities to choose from. Volunteering has the added benefit of making a great talking point when you do find yourself stuck at a traditional networking event.

Tell your friends

Perhaps the simplest method of expanding your professional network is to ask for help. Let your friends and family know that you are interested in meeting some new people, and see if they have any suggestions. They might point you to an interesting opportunity, connect you with someone over LinkedIn, or drop your name at their company holiday party. Networks are self-replicating if used correctly. After all, everyone on earth is connected by 6 degrees of separation as proved by a Microsoft study of 30 billion electronic conversations among 180 million people in various countries. If you ask the right person, who knows who will be able to connect with!


Remember that this is NOT networking:


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