Building Your Professional Network Yields Advantages for Your Entire Career

Networking

Many people who come out of college and jump right into their careers are not familiar with the concept of the professional network. Yet, building a professional network is a crucial aspect of developing and managing a successful career over a lifetime.

What is a professional network?

A professional network is a business-focused group of individuals that you have interacted with to such an extent that those in your network would:

  • Remember meeting you, recognize your name, and associate you with your company and your professional expertise
  • Be willing to refer you to one of their business contacts who has a need for your expertise, or make an introduction to one of their network contacts for shared expertise
  • Be open to staying connected and periodically scheduling time to catch up and share professional developments, insight, and expertise

Building a professional network has multiple advantages, you will:

  • Learn from those in your network and stay abreast of business and industry developments
  • Find inspiration by being connected to other successful business people
  • Gain access to a wide source of business expertise for yourself, your company, your customers, and others within your network
  • Make and gain referrals and introductions with others in your network

How to start building your network

Start with the right perspective. Go into networking with an attitude of service to others. This is not about what you get, rather it’s about what you can give. Successful networkers will receive more than their share of new business opportunities, but you can’t lead with a self-serving perspective.

You must come into the networking relationship looking for opportunities to provide your contacts with expertise, introductions, and resources. Be valuable to others and your network will be valuable to you throughout your entire career.

Start locally in your immediate business community and with contacts related to your industry. If you are working in a professional services firm, building a network with individuals from other (non-competitive) professional services firms will likely yield the highest value to all parties. For example, since you are working in a CPA firm, look to connect with professionals who provide complementary services like bankers, insurance brokers, attorneys, and consultants, etc.  

If you are involved in providing services to specialized industries, look for others who provide complementary services to the same industry. For example, if you work with nonprofit organizations, identify companies who also service nonprofits and begin connecting with individuals from those companies. Over time you will become a more valuable resource for your nonprofit clients by associating with other professionals who also work in the industry and have value to add to your common client base.

Likely your company will use a CRM application to manage contacts. Your network contacts should be entered into your company CRM — hopefully segmented by industry or service specialty. This allows you the ability to make a high-value contribution to the success of your firm’s marketing or practice development strategy and for you to be associated with content that is valuable to those in your network.

Finally, use a professional networking application like LinkedIn to manage your network and to stay connected to others. If you change jobs, your network stays with you. Plan to build and expand your professional network over your entire career. It will yield amazing benefits to you.


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