People say time and time again how important building up your own professional network is. However, what they may not let you realize is that expanding your network is built over time. Have a look at the following five methods to expanding your professional network:
Ask members of your current network for referrals. No easier exists way to expand your network than to simply ask your current friends, family, and associates for the contact information of others whom they think would be beneficial for you to know. The “friend-of-a-friend” connection is quite strong and usually very successful. “Who else should I be talking to?” is a good question to use when asking for referrals.
Join professional or trade organizations. No better method exists for finding people who share the same professional interests and goals than joining one or more industry organizations. Once you’re a member, you’ll usually get access to the membership list, which can open up many new prospective network contacts. Most organizations also run regional or national meetings and conferences, which leads to the next technique for building your network of contacts.
Attend professional/trade meetings, shows, etc. The great thing about trade shows and industry meetings and conferences is that you’ll encounter new people to meet — and opportunities for both “meet-and-greets” and in-depth meetings. Seek out peers as well as more experienced members — and even speakers — to add to your network.
Volunteer. Providing your time and effort to a needy cause is perhaps one of the strongest venues for networking — because you are working side-by-side with people who share your passion for helping others — but often overlooked by job-seekers either too busy or too focused on finding industry contacts. Find an organization that needs your help (and there are many) and start volunteering.
Attend networking events. This technique is a no-brainer for adding more people to your network of contacts. Various groups hold networking events, including colleges, professional and industry associations, chambers of commerce, and the like. Review community calendars online or in your local newspaper for details.