Everyone knows that a major success factor for virtually any professional is the breadth and depth of their professional network, but too often we’re passive and we expect our network to somehow strengthen on its own with minimal effort on our part. It’s also tempting to confuse random robotic social media scrolling during lunch with actively growing our professional network. They’re not the same. Professionals with really strong networks actually make an effort to build them, so don’t make the mistake of being passive, allowing your network to stagnate.
Here are four (4) tips to help you grow your network:
- Deepen already existing relationships:
Growing your professional network doesn’t just mean quantity – quality can be just as important (if not more). Instead of focusing only on doubling your number of contacts, you should also consider how you can deepen the connections you already have. Don’t wait until you need something to reach out to an important connection you’ve recently made. Instead, you can intentionally reach out to a colleague or new connection even when you don’t need anything.
- Develop a monthly networking lunch schedule to broaden your network:
Without a doubt, the best time to build a relationship with a colleague, senior colleague or expert on a subject matter is before you need it. The sad reality is more often we wait until there’s a crisis and then desperately try to find someone to connect us to these people and that can yield less than optimal results. Trying to build a relationship amidst a crisis is rarely a recipe for success. Instead, you can develop a monthly schedule of relationship building lunches or coffees. It may not sound pleasing, but a year from now, you’ll be so glad you did it.
- Get more active on LinkedIn:
Hands down, LinkedIn is one of the most important social media platforms for business professionals, and if you’re not active, you’re most likely missing opportunities to be connected to people who could help you (or whom you could help) this year, next year, or ten years from now. No, you don’t need to post multiple times a day or randomly comment on as many posts as possible. Remember that growing your network by 20% with quality connections is likely more beneficial than expanding it by 40% with random connections.
- Volunteering for professional organizations/conferences:
Without a doubt, volunteering for professional organizations/conferences or serving on boards is another way to grow your network organically. You can select board participation based on your career field or choose affiliation based on a cause that you’re passionate about. This is a great strategy because it provides regular networking opportunities and also boosts your resume at the same time.
Remember that your network won’t dramatically change if you don’t take steps to make it happen. This week, you can carve out some time to think about how you want your professional network to be (quantitatively and qualitatively) by this time next year, then take specific steps to make that happen. This might just be the most important investment to your career this year.
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