Creating a Professional Network

The best way to create job opportunities for yourself is through your professional network. Relating to people is one of the founding factors of professional network creation. In developing a professional network:

  • you should be aware of the people who interact with your business
  • have a positive attitude towards and about people
  • communicate effectively with people
  • Engage in things that build strong relationships.

While everyone is open to the idea of professional networking, few put in the effort to develop one. Here are a few steps to help you start the process of building a network that exists beyond an email thread or social network.

Find a mentor: we all have these people we look up to. We respect what they do and draw inspiration from it. In seeking out a mentor, they should be someone you actually like and respect.

A good mentor is someone you like and likes you in return. This is the first rule in establishing a mentor-mentee relationship. When both parties like and respect each other, anything else comes as a plus because a long-term relationship has been established.

Offer something mutually beneficial. There is more to such a relationship than what brought you together in the first place. Offer to assist in a research project because this may create lee-way for a job opportunity thanks to the skill portrayed.

Use social media. Social media has made networking with dream mentors a reality. This is very possible on LinkedIn and other probable platforms. You can also find established groups designed for people in your field. Here you will meet like-minded individuals who can share the details of their own experience and advice.

Connect in the real world too. By becoming part of these communities, you get to hear about opportunities first-hand. You may find people to recommend you personally which is a big advantage.

Maximize your personal network: it is highly recommended that you find people you already know who might have a connection to the industry you want to join.

Friends and family. Make a list of people who you know might possess knowledge about the field you want to pursue. Friends and family in this context provide the best means here.

Alma mater. The department of your alma mater may link you to alumni who are in the field you are interested in. There may be knowledge about jobs and internships the alma mater may largely share.

Former coworkers. Old bosses and workmates are good people to get in touch with in a context where switching careers is applicable. These are people you already have a connection with so it will be easy to get through to them.

Community organizations. Volunteering your skills at a charity gives you more experience for the CV and serves as a showcase to others who may be looking for that skill at their work. Keep in mind, a lot of influential people from big corporations sit on the boards of several charities.

Meet new people. In initiating dialogue with new persons is hard but the old-fashioned phone call is preferred by many. It is more personal, direct and there is a probability that there will be a response.

Come prepared. Do basic research and have comprehensive questions for your mentor.  Inability to prepare well may not look good on your part and may injure your relationship with the person who set up the meeting.

Listen more and talk less. Talk when you are supposed to. It may be tempting to use this chance to sell your experience and qualifications but the best advice to consider is to talk less and listen more. It makes a better impression because you get to listen and learn.

Treat this meeting like a new interview. Dress professionally and act like this person may recommend you for a position somewhere.

Show interest.  Learn something about your contact. This will give the impression that you want to get to know these people rather than just using their professional profile for personal gain.

Be sincere. It is vital to connect in an honest and more personal way. Your contact may be a little hesitant to connect but open up on your end as this builds base for trust in the next meetings to come.

Be grateful. Saying thank you should portray a sense of courtesy from your end. Send a thank-you note after the meeting. It makes you stand out from other persons/applicants and may earn you the ticket to stay.

Stay in touch. Accomplished people are busy and it is up to you to connect. If not, they are likely to forget about you when an opportunity arises. Do not be afraid to touch base periodically about what you’ve been up to.

When do you use your professional network?

When you need a job. This could expose you to available opportunities.

When you want feedback. Feedback is vital especially when you want to pitch a new idea to smart minds in your network.

When someone else needs help. There is always someone who you know could benefit from your contacts. Share the information.

When you want in. This stems from the interest of working with a new company. See if you know anyone who works there.

When you’re learning a skill. Your contacts may be able to help in a way or two. Recommending you join an ongoing workshop or just train you themselves.

NB: You too can be a regular contributor here, just do a well done piece and drop it to editors@informatsy.com

Author: Simon Gichuki

If you don't find me drawing proposals to streamline records for organizations, or setting them to digitize, you'll find me developing structured programs to empower records and information professionals. I head the team at Records & Information Management East Africa, which also includes informatsy.com. My email is don@rimeastafrica.org. I probably reply to may emails faster than it takes Arsenal to score a goal.

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