6 Ways To Build A Strong Professional Network

Advancing in your career and personal life can become easier and more rewarding with a strong professional network. Professional networking is a skill that everyone can benefit from. You can meet and stay connected with professionals and peers like you from whom you can learn new things about your industry and beyond. More than that, having a strong professional network also means that you have access to updated tools and practices that you can use for your career.

People with a wide and strong network find themselves with more opportunities and experiences at their hands. However, many people think that networking isn’t for everyone. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Professional networking can be done by everyone as long as they commit to it and keep the following things in mind all the time: 

Don’t get too hung up on your elevator pitch

Everyone knows that when meeting new people, you have to be prepared to introduce yourself in the best way possible without taking up too much of their time. You have to sell yourself in the first ten seconds. This is why we have the elevator pitch. The problem with elevator pitches, though, is that most people get too hung up on them. When we plan to build our network, we give all our energy into our elevator pitch to the point that it doesn’t come out naturally anymore. 

Think of networking like you’re trying to make new friends. Although you need a greater degree of professionalism, you should still enjoy it. Don’t sound like a robot trying to recite your elevator pitch to new people, like it was some kind of homework for you. Your elevator pitch should feel instinctive to you. You only rehearse it to perfect it, but you should already know yourself and what you do well enough. Enjoy it and don’t make it feel like a chore.

Keep up to date on your industry (and everything else)

It should go without saying that you should be familiar with the latest news in your industry. The more you get into networking, the more you need something to talk about with your peers and professionals in your industry. Staying on top of your industry’s news and trends will also help you know where to get involved. This will also give you an idea of who you should be connecting with. 

It’s also important to know that your industry isn’t the only thing that matters. You should also make it a point to be updated on general matters beyond your field. Being well informed about the world around you helps you understand diverse cultures and perspectives. Being open-minded and knowledgeable about the events around you will make networking easier. In fact, professionals would prefer to talk to someone who can demonstrate broad knowledge about the things happening around them.

Ask for help

Professional networking is a personal skill, but it doesn’t mean that you can’t ask help from people around you. Learn to take advantage of the connections that you already have, whether they’re your friends, family, professors, or neighbors. You can even ask those who you’ve just recently met. Most of the time, they will be your first steps to building a strong professional network. 

Be direct but polite about asking for help. You will be surprised at how much people are willing to accommodate you. Don’t be afraid to go out of your comfort zone once in a while.

Learn to be resourceful

Some people struggle with shyness, so networking becomes trickier. If you’re the kind of person who’s not used to talking and interacting with different people, you must learn to be resourceful. It can’t be denied that professional networking favors those who are extroverts and used to dealing with people from all perspectives. Luckily, those who aren’t accustomed to it have other means to expand and strengthen their network. 

In today’s world, your network isn’t only those who you can meet in person. Everyone is now at your reach because of the internet. There are many platforms where you can connect and professionally network with other people. LinkedIn and Facebook are two of the most effective platforms that are filled with professionals who might be of significant help in broadening your network. Be resourceful in where to look for the right people and connections. Sometimes, all you need is a simple search and a few clicks. 

Treat your network as something more than a reference

Your professional network isn’t like a reference book that you only consult when you need something. Don’t be the kind of person who forgets about people once you’ve got what you need from them. That’s a big no-no. 

If you want your professional network to be strong, you have to maintain it. Relationships strengthen over time as long as you stay in touch. If you maintain contact, you can greatly avoid people forgetting who you are. You wouldn’t want that to happen. Maintaining your relationships and staying in touch with them also gives you the chance to be the first person who that specific individual thinks of when they come across an opportunity that’s a fit for you. If you don’t nourish your relationships, you will miss out on chances like this. 

Learn to make plans with your connections. You don’t need to always be with them, but checking up on them from time to time will help greatly. Simply sending greeting cards on holidays and asking how they’re doing once in a while is already a big move. It’s also a good idea to offer your skills or talents when they may need them. 

Don’t be someone you’re not

Networking should be a fun activity that gets you excited to meet new people and encounter new opportunities. This will only happen if you’re genuine about what you’re doing. You don’t have to act like someone you're not just to impress the people around you. It’s easy to think that people in your field have a certain characteristic they’re looking for, but don’t be swayed by that. You already have something in you that’s appealing or interesting to other people for them to want to interact or talk with you. 

To help you be genuine with other people, focus on what you can give or offer to your network instead of what you can gain from them. Be yourself and invest genuinely in building relationships.

Final thoughts

If you want a strong professional network, all it really takes is genuine interest in the people around you. Don’t take networking as a way to get something out of others, instead use it as a way to showcase what you can do to make their lives easier. 

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