The importance of the professional network shouldn’t be underestimated. It is hugely advantageous for job hunters in particular as a personal recommendation to an employer from a trusted source is invaluable.
Your professional network should already be in place when you need it and you never know when this might be. It can help you to find a job and move up the career ladder but it requires effort to maintain.
Expanding your professional network is not something you should only think about when you’re job hunting. It should be a part of your work life and something you invest in over time. All relationships work in both directions so you can’t just expect to reap the benefits, you have to reach out to others when they need help.
If you want to improve your long-term career prospects, it is essential to understand the importance of career networking and how to use it to your advantage. Along with your professional resume, your network is one of the most powerful tools you have to make the next big career move.
What is a professional network?
Professional networking simply means building professional relationships. It is about meeting and establishing mutually-beneficial connections with people in your profession or industry. The goal of networking is to build a professional network: a group of people who would do you a favor for, and who would do a favor for you.
The launch of professional network sites such as LinkedIn has made the process much easier as you can make connections with a simple click. However, this can be deceiving.
A purely online connection is probably neither strong or genuine. Stronger professional relationships naturally develop between people who have met in person.
The importance of the professional network
There are numerous benefits of networking. You are much more likely to hear about job opportunities and, even more importantly, be recommended to the hirer by someone in your network. A strong professional network can help you in a job search and make important career moves.
A personal recommendation is likely to advance you straight through to the interview stage or even further. If an ex-colleague can vouch for the work you’ve done in the past and show their faith in you as a person, this could immediately make you the frontrunner for the position.
However, you should take nothing for granted. It is still essential to focus on selling yourself by using a resume builder to produce an attractive resume and to work on your job interview technique.
5 professional networking tips
Here are five tips on how to build a professional network which will help to improve your long-term career prospects. Remeber, building a professional network isn’t something you can do overnight. You should keep this career advice in mind throughout your professional life.
1) Reach out to the right people
Build relationships with people who can help you make a career move. Past and present colleagues and bosses are particularly good contacts but also include friends in similar professions, alumni from college, people from school, and more generally, anyone who can help you.
2) Keep in touch with your contacts
Don’t just contact people when you need them. Invest in each relationship and try to stay in touch, even if it’s just the occasional message to ask how someone is. The stronger your relationships are with your contacts, the more they will be willing to help you.
3) Build your professional network online
There are a number of online professional network services, such as LinkedIn, which are useful tools for staying in touch with people and for making new connections. If you’re a student you should start building a young professional network as early as possible as it will help you in the future. This is one of the top career tips after graduation. Remember that making an online connection is just the starting point, you will need to maintain the relationship.
4) Attend professional networking events
Networking face-to-face is very effective. If you have the change to engage in professional networking activities or go to events, take advantage of the opportunity. They are designed for helping people to build mutually-beneficial professional relationships. There are many professional networking groups you can join which regularly hold events.
5) Do favors for your contacts
You can’t expect to only receive the professional networking benefits. The phrase “what goes around comes around” is worth keeping in mind. If you have the chance to help someone, take it, as it won’t be forgotten. Point your contacts in the direction of job vacancies and share other valuable information.