Like just about everything else in the world, professional networking has changed drastically since the turn of the century. The advent of the Internet and the subsequent onset of social media altered the way that humans connect with one another. Since professional networking is all about connection, these changes have impacted the networking landscape drastically.
Effective networking in today’s world involves blending social media savvy with age-old techniques like knowing your pitch and knowing how to look for opportunities. In this article, we will break down how professional networking has evolved and what you can do to network successfully in modern times.
The Evolution of Networking
Professional networking can serve many purposes, including connecting you with potential business leads and job opportunities, sharing knowledge among industry peers, and increasing your visibility, reputation, and support network. Networking is all about meeting other career-minded folks and seeing where these relationships can lead, professionally.
If the Internet does one thing effectively, it is placing connections with others at your fingertips. Now you can virtually catalog and manage your relationships, keep track of conversations, and organize your connections. Social media has tapped into the professional networking space, most notably with LinkedIn, and also with sites like Angel List, Meetup, and others. In order to professionally network, you need to be able to navigate virtual networking spaces.
The Top 4 Ways to Professionally Network
Check out the options below for our short list of the best ways you can network professionally!
1. Use LinkedIn
If you want to network professionally in today’s world, LinkedIn is pretty much a must. This career-focused social network for professionals has become synonymous with networking. While more and more LinkedIn alternatives are popping up every month, they are all trying to keep up with this powerhouse of a platform. If you can only choose one social media channel for networking, choose LinkedIn—its range of features and hundreds of millions of users make it the best choice for making professional connections online.
LinkedIn makes it easy to do just about everything you can imagine related to networking. Your profile can feature your pitch, work experience, resumé, and other details about you and your career that you want to share with others. You can build connections with people you’ve worked with or want to work with. You can search for jobs and automatically apply with the information included in your profile. Best of all, LinkedIn puts all your professional connections at your fingertips and constantly suggests new connections for you to grow your network, leaving you with a huge resource base should you wish to find a new job, expand into a different field, work with different clients, etc.
2. Give and Take
Professional networking is all about mutually beneficial relationships. What you are looking to get out of your networking efforts might be obvious, but it is equally important to be clear on what you bring to the table for your professional peers.
Whether you’re offering job opportunities, a potential foot in the door at the company you work with, or simply sound advice about your field, having something to offer will help you to make more connections and expand your reach. Who knows—maybe someone who comes to you for advice could be offering you a job a few years down the line. When networking, adhere to the old saying: “What goes around, comes around.”
3. Be Consistent
One of the most common networking mistakes that professionals make is to only network when things are lacking in their professional life. This makes it hard to follow the advice in the previous tip. If you’re only networking when you are looking for a new job or feeling isolated or unsatisfied in your career, you won’t have much to offer other professionals.
This is why it is essential to continue networking, whether or not things are in a good place with your own work life. Networking is not just a tool for getting out of a rough spot—it is also a way to advance your career when it is already doing well, to make room for new opportunities, and to help other professionals who might later be in a place to return the favor. Continue to attend networking events and keep up to date with your online presence, no matter the state of your career.
4. Be Open
When it comes to professional networking, perfectionism can stand in the way of exciting new relationships. It’s easy to get into a mindset of wanting things to line up perfectly before trying them out. But with networking, you need to be open to letting others surprise you. Go get that coffee with the person you always see in the elevator who works on another floor. Answer the email from your friend who is interested in switching careers to something in your field. Even if you’re not sure what you can gain from a networking opportunity, give people a shot and see what you find. You might be surprised by what presents itself!