How to Use Your Professional Network for a Successful Career

professional network
Written by Richard White

Is networking important for building your career? The use of networking as a career-building tool is nothing new. It is possible that you may be doing it without even being aware of it. The problem is not in the concept itself but in its execution. Here, in this post, we will try to understand how to do it right.

professional network

Professional networking is not about pestering people, who you have met only once, for jobs. It is not about smooth talking to all your contacts. It is not about emailing people you have not even met for opportunities or introductions. It is about nurturing your present alliances and creating new relationships.

Identify the Strong Bonds

You need to understand the difference between a relationship based on transaction and one based on an alliance. When an entrepreneur pays a bookkeeper to manage his business accounts, it is a transaction-based relationship. On the other hand, an alliance-based relationship is what is between you and your co-worker.

A professional forms alliances at the workplace, not at business meets or cocktail parties. Remember, the individuals you work with are your allies. This may be your boss you always ask for advice. This may be a co-worker you collaborate with on a project.

It is important to invest in the relationships based on alliances. When your co-worker asks for a little help with a presentation at the last minute, it is a good idea to provide it. After all, you may also need his/her help if you are in a similar situation; you never know when such a situation may arise.

Diversify the Broad Connections

Your immediate associates are not the only ones. While you may have close relationships with only a few individuals, you are sure to have numerous connections on a general level. These may be alumni you meet at get-togethers, business associates you meet at events or anyone connected to your professional world.

The people immediately outside your inner circle are the ones you meet and interact with seldom but are on friendly terms with. These are not your alliances, but your acquaintances. It is a good idea to maintain relationships with these contacts.

When you create these contacts, focus on the diversity instead of the number. It may be possible to benefit from a professional contact if he/she belongs to a related, or even an unrelated, industry. These contacts are often the ones that bring essential bits of information or opportunities that are of help in your career.

Create a Healthy Balance

A good professional network is not about how many contacts you have but about the quality of the contacts you have. You need to achieve the right balance between a few strong professional alliances from your field and a number of useful, friendly contacts from diverse areas of work.

How does this balance help in your career? While your immediate alliances strengthen your position in the industry niche you work in, your indirect connections enhance your knowledge about the job opportunities in other fields. This ensures your chances of improvement in your present job as well as your chances of better opportunities.

Know the Importance of Recommendation

Another reason to strengthen your relationships with your present alliances is to leverage a recommendation or introduction they can provide. When you apply for a new job or plan to change your career, a good word from an ex-boss or a senior may prove to be greatly advantageous for you.

A recruiter has to go through thousands of resumes a day to find a suitable candidate. If your resume is just another one in this pile, the results may not be quite what you expect. A recommendation, on the other hand, may make all the difference to the results.

A good introduction is also important to enhance the chances of success in your career. If you know someone who can introduce you to someone they know and someone you need to know, it may be easier to build trust. Interestingly, it is often the diverse broader connections that come to use in such situations.

Give to Get

This, indeed, is a tall order! While it is important to understand the need of others and help them whenever possible, you need not be a saint. You need to understand that you need to take care of a relationship for it to grow. If you fail to backup a close ally at their time of need, they may not stand by you in your time of need.

A little help with preparing a presentation, a little patience while listening to their trials and tribulations, a little advice for solving a conflict – it is the little things you do on a regular basis that add up to create a great professional network.

Focus on what you can do for the individuals in your immediate professional circle to strengthen the alliances. Focus on how often you communicate with the individuals in your broader professional circle to ensure the right balance in the network. It is possible to utilise your professional network to build your career, only if you know how to do it right.

photo credit: Official GDC via photopin cc

About the author

Richard White

Richard White works as an editor at Yellow Brick Path. He enjoys varying his work and researching new and different approaches to his work. He shares an interest in career counseling and recruitment. Follow him on Twitter