Building a professional network as a communications professional is not an outdated concept. When you have a network of smart, strategic and capable resources in your corner, it is easier to find expertise when a project is just outside of your comfort zone, gather recommendations when pursuing new opportunities, and best of all, form lasting relationships that could turn into mentorship or even friendship.
These scenarios seem utopian, but are powerful networks even possible in today’s digital age? We’re on our phones more than ever, meeting fewer people socially as we age, and while we’re always “connected,” we often find ourselves siloed.
But fear not! The answer is unequivocally yes. Building a network is not only possible, but imperative to reaping all the benefits listed above.
If you’re new to this process, or maybe just need a refresher on how to build a solid network, here are a few suggestions below that have worked for me personally:
Say it to their face
Professional relationships fostered online do make an impact, but face-to-face interactions will always prevail. Jump into team happy hours and mingle with professionals in your field. Ask about their experiences, learn their story. And if cocktail or networking events are a little more than your introverted self is interested in? That’s fine! Stick to one-on-one coffee dates or interactions that feel more genuine to you. Build rapport through your authentic interest in gaining knowledge from those around you. In terms of getting to know someone and building a relationship, face time is a must.
There’s an app(s) for that
While LinkedIn is the token app for networking, there is value in letting your professional network into your bubble, and you into theirs. Find someone you hit it off with at that happy hour event? Shoot them a Facebook friend request. Learn about your connections as people, husbands and parents and daughters and friends. Give them a follow on Instagram. See what is important to them and give them access to what is important to you too. Twitter is a fantastic tool for promoting what others are doing. Give colleagues a shout out or find folks with common interests through industry hashtags. It is called social “networking” for a reason. By understanding your professional network on a personal level, you are able to gain insight into your colleagues’ values and what drives them, leading to sincere and long-lasting relationships.
You get a connection! You get a connection! And you get a connection too!
Offering your time for free is a great way to build your network. Whether you have decades of experience under your belt or are just breaking into your professional career, you have experiences and skills that can greatly benefit those around you. Think about your strongest skill set and find a group of people that could benefit from it. Keep in mind that this group could be completely outside of our day-to-day line of work. Even better! The great thing about networking is that your reach is exponential, so take advantage of that.
You can’t get what you don’t give
Networking is not a one-way street. In order to have advantageous and worthwhile professional relationships, you have to maintain them. Set a reminder to check in with certain contacts quarterly. Ask them how THEY are, how their kids are doing. Ask about recent vacations and interesting experiences they’ve been up to. (See, I told you that social media stuff would come in handy). Your professional network can’t grow if you don’t water it, so make it a priority to have your effort recognized.
Okay, it’s time to get started. If you’re new to Merritt Group, this blog, or me personally, let’s get started on building your network. Connect with me on LinkedIn and send me a message to tell me what you liked (or didn’t like!) about this post. I look forward to connecting!