Throughout your career, you’ll come to realize that people heavily rely upon their professional networks. Even if you’re only at the beginning of your career, you likely already have a fairly extensive network, from high school, college, and any jobs or internships you held during that time. In the professional world, your network is how you can find out about new opportunities, ask questions about an industry, city, or company you’re interested in, or even find a place to live. It’s beneficial to continuously work on strengthening and increasing your network of connections, so here are some tips on how to do so.
Create an online presence
As you start to increase your network, it’s time to create an online presence for yourself. Think of how you’d like to portray yourself online and what you want your personal brand to say about you. Create profiles like LinkedIn and Twitter and then make sure they’re professional; you don’t want a possible future boss or coworker to see the uninformed tweets you sent in high school. An online presence also provides you with a way to keep track of the people you meet as you enhance your network.
Attend lots of events
If you live in a city, there are going to be plenty of networking and professional development events around you. Many local governments organize events for professionals in the area in order to encourage them to connect. There are also plenty of groups that meetup that share a common interest or hobby. Find some of these groups online and then attend meetups to get to know new people. You can also try tapping into your alumni network in the area; colleges are usually more than happy to help with this step.
Learn to talk to strangers
As you attend networking events, you’ll need to learn how to talk to people that you don’t know very well. Make sure you do not spend too much time talking about yourself; learn to ask other people questions. While you are looking to enhance your professional network, do not write someone off simply because you don’t see a way they can help you. It’s important to be polite to people; you could strike up a friendship or you might be able to help them out in some way.
Follow up afterwards
Finally, once you start meeting new people, follow up in some form. Whether it’s simply sending a request on LinkedIn or you decide you want to get coffee or lunch with someone, follow up within a few days. Networking events are great for the initial meeting, but you’ll need to take the initiative afterwards to further the connection.