If you want to advance in your career, it’s important that you network well to find new opportunities.
Here’s how to build your professional network in 6 easy steps:
1. Create and Polish Your Online Presence
The very first thing you should do is Google yourself! You need to know what kind of info is already out there when potential employers run an online search on you. Search your name and see what you find. You might be surprised to discover old posts that don’t show you in a positive light or posts you were tagged in that you knew nothing about. A good rule of thumb is to make sure that the only information available about you online is what you’d be proud to have a potential employer see.
Update your privacy settings on social media platforms to ensure that the public only sees what you want. Facebook even allows you to completely remove your profile from search engine results.
Once you’ve cleaned up the old stuff, create your new, professional presence. You should create a LinkedIn profile, with a professional-looking profile photo and updated information. Fully fill out your profile so that potential contacts can get a complete picture of your background and skills. This helps you to have a simple, professional way to immediately connect with people and follow up online.
2. Find a Mentor
If you know someone in your industry who has the career you want to have someday, that person could be a great mentor for you. You can ask them to formally take you under their wing, and offer you guidance and intros to other great people to know. They most likely surround themselves with other successful people and could open doors to new connections and opportunities for you.
3. Show Your Face
Just get networking! Go where the people you want to meet are. Your industry probably has a local chapter of its trade association that you could become a part of. You can do an online search for networking groups or meet-ups related to your industry too. Go to these events and begin to form quality connections with others in your field. The more you get in front of people and talk to them, the more they’ll remember you and think of you when an opportunity comes up.
When you attend these events, have a specific goal in mind. Do you want to walk away with information about a potential new job? Do you want to have two people to follow up and schedule a meeting with because you’re interested in their companies? Whatever it is you hope to achieve from your networking event, make a mental note and make it happen.
4. Schedule One-on-One Meetings
Networking events are great to quickly connect with a lot of people, but the real opportunities come out of the one-on-one conversations. When you meet someone who could be a good professional connection — whether it’s at a networking event or your kid’s soccer game — schedule a meeting with them to talk about business more in-depth. You will probably learn a lot more about what a person has to offer and what you can offer them when you have a focused meeting over coffee to specifically talk about work.
5. Give and Take
A key to networking well is that you think about what you can give at least as much as you think about what you can get. The more you network, the more people you’ll know and be able to connect others with the person they want to reach. When you are that person who connects others, it makes you look good because you help them out, and it also makes them want to help you and return the favor that much more. Plus, it just feels good to make those connections.
6. Follow Up
So you go to networking events and you have the one-on-one meetings. Then what? Follow up! Send the person a quick email to thank them for meeting with you. Tell them again how you can help one another or how interested you are in their company. If it’s a connection that you want to keep, make a recurring note in your calendar to reach out to them to stay top of mind. Maybe schedule a lunch with them to catch up or send them an article that you think they’d enjoy. Following up and ongoing contact will help you strengthen the connection, and when job openings come up, they might think of you first.
If you’re ready to learn more about how to build your professional network and prepare for interviews and a career, the Career Services office at Charter College is here to help students succeed.
Contact us today to learn more about our programs.