Professional Networking: what it is and how to create it in 6 steps

Professional networking is a valuable resource for your career growth. Whether you are a student, a recent graduate, or a seasoned professional, this medium gives you access to new job opportunities based on your goals.

What is professional networking? It is a process that allows you to build relationships with professionals in the same or related fields as yours. There are several reasons why networking makes sense: to increase your relevance in the world of work, to expand your network of contacts, to make yourself more visible in the eyes of potential employers, or to increase your knowledge on specific topics.

As you may have guessed, professional networking is based on the creation of one’s own network of relationships. The latter must be done in a meticulous and thought-out manner in order to give your person and your profession the right visibility. To do this, you have to learn how to weave and maintain professional relationships, which you can learn to do through targeted courses. For example, to become an expert in online PR, you can take the Course to become a Digital Pr Specialist by Digital Coach.

Do you want to know more about this topic? Then read on; in this article, I will explain:

  • What professional networking is
  • Why networking is essential
  • How to create one in 6 easy steps
  • What skills are needed to create a successful network.

Professional networking: what it is for

Professional networking is the exchange of information and ideas between people with a common profession or special interest. This process can be formal or informal and can take many different forms, ranging from exchanging business cards with clients at company events to the simple act of striking up a conversation with someone talking about your industry at an event. It is an absolutely vital part of the business world, and what is more, it is not as difficult to achieve as one might think.

Today, professional networking plays a key role in online communications because it allows you to expand your brand awareness, giving you greater relevance not only among your personal contacts but also in the eyes of companies and potential customers.

In the business world, it is indispensable to have a professional network if you want to get noticed. It is fair to understand, however, that you have to follow a well-defined strategy that can make you visible in the eyes of others. In this article, I will explain how to do this and through which tools.

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Why professional networking is important

Experts agree that the most connected people are often the most successful. In professional networking, when you invest in your relationships – professional and personal – it will pay off throughout your career. Your group of contacts will help you develop and improve your skills, keep abreast of the latest trends in your industry, maintain momentum in the job market, meet future mentors, partners, and clients, and gain access to the resources you need for career development.

How important is professional networking? It produces a lot of benefits. When you meet new people and start building relationships with them, they can connect you to their circle of contacts, opening doors to new business opportunities, partnerships, and more.

importance of having a network

Through professional networking, you can meet people who have more experience than you; they can give you useful advice for your business and, at the same time, teach you new knowledge in your field. Every networking opportunity is an opportunity for professional and personal growth.

This development occurs in every field, especially in the area of creativity. Meeting professionals from different sectors and cultures can foster your creativity and introduce you to new working methods and business strategies. If you meet the right professionals, you can even go so far as to adopt their innovations into your working system.

Professional networking is a way of life and not just something people do. Establishing relationships, however, takes time and dedication. Therefore, it is important to remember that successful networking is about building and nurturing relationships with your contacts so that these, over time, are consolidated and become long-lasting.

How to create a professional network in 6 steps

One of the most effective methods to build a career in the labor market is through the process of professional networking. Some experts say that there is a high percentage of people who find jobs through professional contacts. However, networking does not mean asking your contacts for a job. The process of professional networking is about building new relationships.

Think of this process as informal hearings, where you have to make people understand who you are, what your ideas are, and why they might want to work with you (or have contacts in common who want to work with you). Professional networking may be a daunting task for some, especially for those who are just starting out in the world of work. So how can you create a professional network? I will explain in 6 simple steps.

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1) Broaden your network of contacts

The first step in building professional networking is to widen your circle of acquaintances. Start with the contacts you have in your personal life, such as family, friends, and colleagues, and from there, start making yourself known and building relationships with people who are similar to you and your interests.

If you know someone you would like to have in your professional network, but don’t know how to approach them, start by looking for someone you already know on both sides. LinkedIn is a great place to start. Through this tool, you can see the profile of the contact you are looking for, and you can find contacts in common. Once found, politely ask the common contact to introduce yourself strategically. This can be done online via video chat or by organizing a meeting or get-together.

There are several ways to expand your professional set of acquaintances: besides simple word of mouth, you have the opportunity to meet new people at meetings and events. Of course, the first thing to do is to exchange your business card with general references. Once this is done, one has to make an effort to create and then maintain these new relationships. Only then can all parties involved benefit.

2) Always look for new opportunities

The key to strong professional networking is curiosity. If you really want to widen your circle of contacts and make yourself visible as a professional, you need to look for opportunities on a daily basis. They can be of any nature: events, meetings, formal gatherings, forums, or group video calls. The chances increase even more when you are at a business event, but there it all depends on you and on the way you present and expose yourself. Only through your skills and strategy can you really get to know new people with similar fields of interest to yours, but always keep in mind that every contact must benefit you from a business point of view.

3) Stay focused on your fields of interest

One of the main purposes of professional networking is to find contacts who act in the same fields of interest as you. The priority is to look for the right opportunities to meet as many professionals as possible in order to widen your network with contacts who can be useful for your purpose: be it finding a new job, getting to know possible clients, or simply new colleagues.

There are events that are considered network events, where you can meet groups of professionals to have a conversation. Each event you attend may look different. Some are simpler and more casual and give participants time to converse with each other. Some examples are:

  • Workshop
  • Conferences (virtual and in-person)
  • Seminars
  • Career fairs.

4) Use Social Media

Social media are the hub for building your professional network. For this purpose, the best channel is definitely LinkedIn.

Using LinkedIn for networking means, first of all, creating a profile that sets you apart. Starting from the profile picture to the summary, every element must be professional, up-to-date, and easy to understand. Making a good impression is crucial to catch the attention of your interlocutors.

role of social media in networking

Once you have entered your data, you need to build relationships with your new contacts. Start interacting with other LinkedIn users by liking, commenting, and sharing their posts, especially if the content is relevant to your field of interest. Also, there is no harm in messaging new people, asking them for specific advice in a field, discussing content they have posted, or finding out about upcoming networking events.

Finally, you need to be active on the platform. Publishing your own original content, or sharing posts that interest you, can help stimulate a conversation with an existing connection or bring a new user to contact you.

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5) Establish a relationship of trust with your contacts

The professional networking process does not end when the event you attended ends. After giving and receiving contact information, you need to follow up on social media to preserve and strengthen the newly built relationships. For instance, you can call, write or send a message to the new contact a few days after the meeting to express your pleasure at having met him/her.

Dialogue and cultivating professional relationships with your network of acquaintances can lead to great satisfaction, both in your professional and personal life. In particular, my advice is to always stay in touch with people and, even if you do not have daily conversations, try to comment as much as possible on the posts of your contacts or send an e-mail about an interesting article in your field of interest.

6) Take care of your image

Until not so long ago, it was thought that one’s personal image only had to be taken care of for an in-person meeting. Today, more than ever, it is realized how important it is, however, to also take care of one’s image online, even more so if you want to do professional networking. Unlike face-to-face meetings, on the web, you need to be able to get across who you are and what you stand for in just a few seconds. Therefore, creating an optimal and impressive profile is a focal point if you want to network.

There are several actions you can take to distinguish yourself from others:

  • have a single image for all social media which is clear, simple, and relevant to your brand
  • specify your skills and set out what distinguishes you from any other professional
  • constantly update your profile, always specifying any project you are working on or any job position you hold
  • use a clear and consistent tone that reminds the contact what added values you bring to the working world.

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Skills for effective business networking

In order to have a professional network full of contacts, you need to possess skills that enable you to establish business and personal relationships. The importance of professional networking is obvious. But how can you improve your skills to create an effective network?

Here are some effective hard and soft skills for good networking:

Learn to be a good listener

Knowing how to listen values others and shows them respect. Ask thoughtful and genuinely interested questions and then listen to the opinions and thoughts of others. This will enable you to build trusting relationships.

Be proactive

Cultivating your network every day is crucial if you want to maintain relationships that benefit you. Stay in touch with your circle of acquaintances as much as possible, even if only by sending a short email to say hello. You must always keep them interested and show your differential. To have a rich and effective network, you need to have contacts with whom you have strong and lasting relationships because people are usually more willing to help you when they know who you are.

Develop strong communication skills

Knowing how to communicate is the basis of professional networking. This means saying the right things at the right time. Avoid making inappropriate or out-of-context interventions; always try to be empathetic towards your interlocutor and pay attention to the tone you use, both online and in person. If you can have good communication with people, you will see your relationships strengthen and new acquaintances increase.

Cultivate a positive attitude

Language has a huge impact on professional networking. Therefore, it is obvious that the tone you use will influence how people perceive you. If you constantly use negative words and phrases, people will think of you as a negative, perhaps even unmotivated person. If, on the other hand, you use positive language, people will see you as an optimistic person, always ready to take on new challenges. The use of constructive language is especially important in written communication, where you cannot use body language; you must only be able to convey your message politely and kindly through words.

Become an email master

Regardless of how you meet your contacts, the most important communication is done by email. So make sure your emails are professional and express all the information you want to share in the right way.

mastery of email

The rules for writing emails vary from sector to sector, but there are some basic practices you should always follow:

  • write a clear and direct subject line
  •  use a professional email address
  •  use an upbeat and professional tone
  •  correct everything
  •  if you are not sure of the exact meaning of a word, look it up before including it
  •  resist the temptation to use emoji
  •  use “Reply All” only if absolutely necessary
  •  use BCC to protect the privacy of others, if appropriate
  •  mention any attachments, and the purpose of those attachments, within the text of the email

For more valuable insights regarding email, I recommend enrolling in the Online Email Marketing Course of Digital Coach. 

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Conclusions and free advice

The article on professional networking and how to create a successful one ends here. I hope I have given you all the essentials on the subject, especially if you are thinking of setting one up or improving it for better visibility.

One last piece of advice: try to put aside shyness and fears for professional networking. Remember that people are naturally inclined to collaborate and help others. Therefore, “team building” should be seen by you as something normal, as well as useful, in the business field. The benefits you can draw from it are both on the work and personal front. Thanks to networking, in fact, you can not only increase your job opportunities but also increase your self-esteem and sense of importance.

 

Creating your professional network takes time and dedication.
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