Your network is one of your greatest career assets. It can help you find new opportunities before they are advertised, learn about new trends relevant to your workplace, and navigate jobs and new industries. It is one aspect of a career support plan that often gets neglected so here are 3 key tips for building a valuable network that supports you and your career.
1. Be visible and be purposeful.
Social media has become a fabulous way to connect, curate and maintain your network. It can help you connect to decision-makers, access new insights, and create global connections more easily than ever before. One of the biggest compliments often said about effective senior executives is the strength of their network. Their network helps them get things done and helps them understand the competitive environment for their business. These relationships are built and maintained over time, so getting started early is the best help you can give your career to have an impact now and in the future.
The networks and reputations we create in our schools and universities can be one of the great foundations for career growth. So, connect and stay in touch. When reaching out to connect with people outside of your immediate friends or workgroup, make sure you provide a brief introduction in your invite as to why you want to connect. It could be you’re interested in following their online comments or you’d like to understand their career plans or simply that you admire the way they’ve built their career and would like to connect. It will help differentiate you from the many spam or sales invites that land in their messages.
2. Connect widely, but not indiscriminately.
There is great value in having a wide network as it can open you up to new ways of thinking of work, alert you to emerging competition or help you switch industries or companies. Often, it’s your 2nd or 3rd tier connections who may be the greatest help when you’re wanting to embark on a new role or career. It’s often referred to as “the power of weak links” as they will have new and different networks and insights to connect you to different opportunities. Your immediate network will often have access to the same insights or be impacted by the same competitive pressures as you so may not be as helpful during periods of change.
It’s also important that you distance or disconnect from people that don’t share your values, professional style or have an online reputation that doesn’t align with your objectives. This can be difficult when it’s close friends or family, so a conversation about how you separate your professional network may be a helpful way to navigate this issue.
3. Be generous.
A good career network is managed over time, so that when you need it, those connections will be willing to help and know what is important to you. The best networkers are active in their network and will often connect with people that they think would have a mutually beneficial conversation, even if it doesn’t impact them. Social media provides a wonderful way to stay in touch so we encourage you to take advantage of the tools it provides. This can be achieved by simply liking a post, congratulating someone on a new job, sharing an article or update online, or reaching out to get their perspective on a new idea or business.
Building a good network is an important asset for a successful career. Managing your network, staying connected and visible is the difference to having the best career you can dream of.
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