10 tips to expand your professional network

10 tips to expand your professional network

No matter where you work, networking is the fuel that will help drive your career. All the more reason to go for it and achieve professional success. Here is how…

1. Establish a plan

Before jumping headfirst into networking efforts, you should prepare an action plan and identify goals you want to realize through your professional network.

Are you searching for new clients or a new job? Are you on the lookout for the latest industry trends? Do you want to pursue new partnerships?

By answering these questions, you will be able to focus your efforts on what matters most. You can avoid firing random shots in all directions that miss your intended target.

2. Reach out online

For many people, shyness puts the kibosh on developing a network of contacts.

Start with some online networking to build up your confidence.

Sign up for group chats. Learn the ins and outs of LinkedIn and increase your presence on this platform dedicated to professional networking.

It will be easier to observe tactics that work well or not so well and adjust accordingly.

3. Quality before quantity

You really need just one good contact within your network to achieve your professional goals.

You should therefore concentrate on the quality of your business relationships instead of striving for a set magic number of contacts.

It is recommended to have 3 to 4 meaningful conversations during networking events, rather than buzz from one person to the next exchanging small talk.

4. Become a member

Chambers of commerce, professional associations and business groups organize a wide array of events where networking is front and centre.

5. Fine-tune your tone

You have professional goals to achieve, so get going! However, the hard sell is rarely a winning strategy.

First and foremost, you need to build bridges.

This sends the message you are not just in it for yourself, but are also interested in others. A certain balance is therefore required to avoid getting caught in the narcissist trap of me, myself and I.

6. Domino effect of giving

One proven tactic involves sending a reply in one of the groups to which you belong to a contact who has a question that needs to be answered or who seeks a solution to an issue.

If your answer makes a difference in that person’s daily professional life, you can be reasonably assured to have gained an ally.

Aim to become a reference for others. By helping others, they will be more inclined to return the favour when the time comes.

7. Keep track

Memories fade and specifics become hazy as time passes so keep a journal in which you list all the details about people you ask for help:

  • Name and job title
  • Company name
  • Contact information
  • Summary of your discussion

You will avoid making an embarrassing misstep such as completely getting someone’s name wrong.

8. Never forget to follow-up

Always take a few minutes to thank every person you meet.

Include one notable point from your discussion. Your message will have a more personal touch and appear less perfunctory.

Maintain this contact over time. The connection may not seem beneficial today, but could end up being useful in the future. The playing field can tilt as events sometimes evolve faster than you think.

9. Prep your message

Time is often a scarce commodity among people you are soliciting.

Draft the message you want to deliver in advance so there is no need for improvisation when you do approach them. Be brief, 20 minutes max is plenty of time to easily convey what you want to say.

Here is how to divvy up discussion topics:

Step

Recommended time

Initial contact

1-2 minutes

Overview of your professional path

2-3 minutes

Your career goals

4-5 minutes

How your contact can help

8-10 minutes


10. Never throw in the towel

Did one of your moves not go as planned? Do you have the impression of banging on a locked door? Have you been categorically rejected?

Don’t be discouraged.

These moments provide an opportunity to learn and a chance to modify your strategy. Sometimes, all it takes is knowing the right time to call or improving your message to make it more concise and to the point.

You may have to invest more time in planning your approach before meeting a complete stranger. In that case, create a scenario to practice.