Starting the New Year is the best time to make resolutions, to try and be better than the year before, to grow and improve, of course not just on personal level but professionally speaking too. And the importance and the quality of your professional network is a vital part of the success of your plans and ambitions. Just like anything else, it needs time and energy; your network won’t develop by itself. Don’t make the mistake of being passive and letting your network stagnate. Here are 5 tips to help you develop your professional network.
Tip n°1 – Increase your existing connections.
A good professional network doesn’t mean accumulating lots of LinkedIn connections for example. Quality can be just as important, if not more important than quantity. Once you enter into your network (virtual or not), try to deepen relationships with your connections rather than waiting for a time when you need them to do you a favour in order to get in contact. Connecting with your network to wish them a happy New Year, congratulating a contact for their promotion, their career change, adding a comment under an article or a published comment, asking for a simple opinion from a contact that you know has the knowledge or expertise to reply to you (which will flatter them at the same time), are so many examples that will allow you to maintain your professional network without taking an approach that could make you look opportunistic.
Tip n°2 – Become unmissable on LinkedIn.
LinkedIn has without a doubt become the most important networking platform for professionals. Be as active on it as possible. If you are inactive, you are missing out on opportunities to be connected to people who could provide you with help, or who you yourself could help in 2020 or 2021. To come across as credible, be sure to maximise your LinkedIn profile and make it as attractive as you can. Don’t neglect your photo, which should also make you seem as dynamic and professional as possible. If your profile already puts you amongst the regulars of the network, strive to become an opinion leader.
Tip n°3 – Draw up a monthly calendar of lunches or coffee meetings to establish relationships.
Be proactive, and don’t wait until the moment when you really need people in your network to meet them on a regular basis. Establish a list of people and exerts who you need to surround yourself with. Assign one day a month for lunch or a networking coffee and send an invitation to each contact on your list to schedule the meeting. Choose a meeting place that is outside of the office so that there is a more relaxed atmosphere. Don’t forget the basics of networking, in particular make sure that you are adding value to this meeting and the conversations by taking an interest in the people invited and conducting this meeting around a topic that concerns them.
Afterwards, don’t forget to thank the people who joined your lunch by sending them an email, suggesting having another lunch or coffee in three months’ time, and planning it in advance.
Tip n°4 – Attend conferences or training sessions that spark your interest.
Conferences and trainings provide opportunities to broaden your mind, your knowledge, but equally your network. Most professionals understand the advantages of attending this type of event, but not everyone gives themselves time to actually attend them. You think about it, you tell yourself that it would be nice to go to such and such conference because the topic particularly relates to your subject of expertise, but very often our professional agenda takes over and we run out of time. Speaking about it with your boss is perhaps a good way of making this a reality as well as making this official. Going to conferences can then be a part of a professional procedure, having received approval from your company.
Also, don’t hesitate to ask your business to set aside a budge (you have to pay for most conferences or trainings) at the start of the year to improve your chances of having money allocated before budgets are too tight. Therefore be proactive! Document your preferred conferences, your training or certification requests and make sure to have a solid and clear motive that you can base your request upon when discussing the subject your company.
Tip n°5 – Be a contributor at conferences or at round tables.
Your field of expertise or a particular cause makes you want to talk about it, to share it on a bigger scale? Here is an excellent strategy that allows you to develop your network through making yourself better known. Target conferences or debates that you may want to take part in and without spreading yourself too thin, organise your diary for 2020 through 5 or 6 dates. These meetings, where this time you are not the organiser, will allow you to meet people that you maybe couldn’t meet spontaneously, who will most likely want to stay in contact with you thereafter.
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