How to Make the Most of Your Professional Network
(Part 3 of a 3-Part Mini-Series on Making Professional Connections)
In this 3-part series on making professional connections, we’ve laid out the compelling reasons for joining a professional organization and how to make the right connections, let’s finish with how to make the most of it.
Build Relationships, Not Just Connections
In cultivating your professional network, quality wins over quantity. It’s not about the number of connections you make. It’s about the relationships you form. Dale Carnegie’s time-tested book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, says it all. Here’s a synopsis from Forbes.
Networking in the right place at the right time may lead to professional development options.
Use Informational Interviewing as a Tool
Simply put, informational interviewing is a “tool” to use for obtaining information. It’s a tool you can put to use in networking, when speaking to career fair recruiters, as well as for interview preparation. More and more companies are conducting informational interviews via online platforms to help screen candidates. Here is a comprehensive list of 200 great questions to ask an interviewer or new colleague. The question list is divided into sections, making it easy to find suitable talking points.
Volunteer Your Assistance
Practice the above informational interview questions while your volunteering for a nonprofit or community organization such as Habitat for Humanity. This will help build rapport with the other volunteers. I have many clients who have gained employment through connections made from volunteering. Don’t know where to start? GuideStar provides a comprehensive list of non-profits. Use this time to build your network and quickly learn that starting from a position of giving, often means returns beyond your wildest expectations.
Signing up for email lists and text reminders will keep you informed, but not necessarily engaged. When the opportunity presents to attend in person, do your best to show up.
Use Social Media
It’s unrealistic to think we can attend every event, especially if we’re part of a highly active social group. Take some time to discover the online playgrounds for your network. Is there a LinkedIn group, a business Facebook page or maybe even an app? Don’t assume social media is just for cute puppies and sarcastic memes. Professional networking opportunities abound.
Knowing the why and how of building an effective professional network can save precious time and might even create unexpected lasting friendships. Remember, when you attend or volunteer at an organized professional event, you will be joining people with similar interests, making it easier to converse and to practice your informational interviewing skills.
Let me know how it’s working for you. I’d love to feature your story in my next article.
Debra Ruddell, MS, CCC, GCDF, is an accomplished career consultant, here to help you find a career that fits your skills, talents, knowledge, and goals. Debra helps her clients simplify and streamline their career/job search with proven tangible methods. Connect via her website, www.djrcareerconnector.com, or by email, firstname.lastname@example.org.