No matter which industry you work in, professional networking is the key to advancing your career.
And yet, you may not exactly know what professional networking is, how it can benefit your career, or who your professional network should consist of.
Luckily, we’re here to tell you all about it!
In this article, we will cover:
- What Is Professional Networking?
- 3 Benefits of Professional Networking for Your Career
- 6 Professional Networking Tips
- Who Should Be Part of Your Professional Network?
- 3 Types of Professional Networking
What Is Professional Networking?
Essentially, professional networking refers to building and maintaining professional relationships that, ideally, benefit both parties through a mutual exchange of professional advice, referrals, career opportunities, and more.
As such, the goal of professional networking is to create a strong network consisting of a wide variety of professionals and industry experts that can help you achieve your professional goals and vice versa.
The most popular places for professional networking include:
- Networking events
- Current and previous workplaces
- Social events and gatherings
- Alumni associations
- Online professional networking websites, such as LinkedIn
3 Benefits of Professional Networking for Your Career
There’s no denying that professional networking is beneficial to any professional.
However, if you haven’t given professional networking a try yet, it’s likely because you aren’t sure how it could benefit you.
So, here are 3 major benefits that professional networking can bring to your career:
#1. Job Opportunities
Networking statistics show that as much as 70% of job openings aren’t advertised online.
As such, by allowing you to connect with other industry professionals that may know of job opportunities, professional networking can significantly help your job hunt.
Not to mention, referred candidates are 4 times more likely to be hired, which makes professional networking one of the most effective ways to find a job.
#2. Career Research
If you’re unsure which career path is best for you, professional networking can help you make the right decision.
Essentially, professional networking allows you to get in touch with professionals working in different industries and positions.
As a result, you get an opportunity to ask questions about a specific career path, making it easier to learn and decide whether the job you’re interested in might actually be your true calling.
In this regard, professional networking is particularly useful for recent graduates and professionals planning to make a career change.
#3. Professional Advice
Ideally, professional networking should be mutually beneficial. That way, it gives you a great opportunity to share and get professional advice.
For example, if you’re stuck on a project, having a broad professional network comes in handy. More likely than not, there will be someone that knows exactly how to get things moving.
Moreover, if you have expertise on a particular topic, professional networking allows you to share it with others. In turn, this can help you establish yourself as a highly-skilled professional.
6 Professional Networking Tips
If you’re looking to get the most out of professional networking, consider following these networking tips:
- Participate in networking events. Attending networking events, such as webinars, conferences, and trade shows is one of the most effective ways to expand your professional network.
- Overcome shyness with online professional networking. Studies show that online networking reduces anxiety and negative emotions that come with in-person networking. So, if the thought of introducing yourself to strangers makes you uncomfortable, you might want to try networking on LinkedIn and other similar websites.
- Make relevant connections. To take full advantage of professional networking, try to seek out contacts that will contribute to your professional goals (e.g. if you’re looking for a job in digital marketing, try to meet other marketing professionals).
- Ask open-ended questions. The most effective questions to ask during networking events are open-ended because they help you get a comprehensive answer instead of a mere ‘Yes’ or ‘No.’ So, whenever possible, try to keep your questions open. For example, instead of ‘Do you enjoy working in this company?’ ask ‘What do you like the most about working in this company?’.
- Foster your professional network. To have a strong professional network, it’s not enough to just meet people - you also want to keep the connection alive. So, whenever possible, try to help your professional contacts, express gratitude to those that help you, and send follow-up messages and holiday greetings on LinkedIn or by email.
Who Should Be Part of Your Professional Network?
The people who make up your professional network are an essential part of successful networking.
As such, you want to surround yourself with a variety of professionals, including:
- Current and former colleagues. Besides having industry knowledge, your current and past coworkers are also more likely to have a clear understanding of your professional capabilities, especially if you’ve worked closely with them. As such, they can give you useful advice, open up new career opportunities, and help you set achievable goals.
- College peers. It’s very likely that your college classmates work and have connections in the same industry as you, so make sure they’re part of your professional network.
- College professors. Much like our college peers, it’s very likely that your college professors have a broad network of industry professionals AND are interested in helping you with your professional goals, so it only makes sense to include them in your professional network.
- Fellow members of professional associations and clubs. Professional associations and clubs help you connect with other industry professionals. In turn, they may help you find new job opportunities, improve your skills, stay up-to-date with the latest industry news and trends, and much more.
- Family and friends. Your friends and family members may know someone that can help you advance your career and reach your professional goals, so consider making them a part of your professional network (even if they work in a different field).
3 Types of Professional Networking
Depending on whom you build your professional relationships, your professional network can fall into one of these 3 types:
- Personal networking refers to forming connections with professionals outside of your organization (e.g. in professional associations, charities, volunteer organizations, etc).
- Operational networking means building strong professional relationships with people within your workplace, such as your colleagues in different departments.
- Strategic networking combines both of the above-mentioned types of professional networking and helps you to create an expansive professional network consisting of people from different backgrounds.
And that’s a wrap!
Hopefully, now you have a better idea of what professional networking is and how it can benefit your career.
Before you go, let’s go over some of the key points of this article:
- Professional networking refers to building mutually beneficial professional connections.
- Besides providing you access to more job opportunities, professional networking allows you to do thorough career research and exchange professional advice.
- To get the most out of professional networking, consider attending networking events, make sure to ask open-ended questions, and don’t forget to maintain your professional network.
- Aside from your colleagues, it’s important to include your friends, family members, college peers, professors, as well as fellow professional association members in your professional network.
- The three types of professional networking are personal, operational, and strategic networking.