Monday, February 1, 2016

Manage Your Professional Network

You've heard this before: "It's not what you know, it's who you know." Of course it helps to know things. But, it's more important to know people who can get you in the position to demonstrate what you know. Those people are your professional network. Building yours doesn't have to be hard.

Here's how to manage your professional network...

Having a strong network is critical to your professional success. The trick is to make sure you are building a diverse network. Do so by adding people from different industries, backgrounds, age groups, ethnic groups, etc. Building a deep network by only including people from your current profession, industry, business or team leaves too many stones unturned, limiting potential opportunities.

If you are just getting started in building your network, begin by creating a list of fifty people you know. Everyone is a potential connection. Include classmates, friends, past and current colleagues, family members and members of associations to which you belong. Include contact information for each person on your list. You will be surprised at how well connected you already are regardless of your career level. Create and develop a professional business profile online. The most popular website for business networking is LinkedIn. Facebook and others will also serve you well. In addition, there might be a sites suited to your profession, industry or specialty. Once you identify you know, connect to your contacts and begin to cultivate your relationships.

We achieve our greatest success through our relationships with others. That's why it is critical to build and maintain your network. However, approach is everything. If you build your network with the goal of supporting others, you will be far more successful than if your goal is to solely satisfy your own objectives. Your network is a valuable component of your professional brand and success.

As you cultivate your relationships, the contacts you have will refer you to people in their own network. Build relationships with those new contacts and grow those relationships. Stay organized, ask each person you connect with the best way to stay in touch, and express thanks with a hand-written note or a thoughtful email. Then, you are well on your way to building a strong network.

To be truly successful at networking, you need to be continuously making new connections while at the same time nurturing the relationships you have. Remember, if you take the attitude that it is about you, you will be less successful in retaining your network. But if you treat your network as a group of people you serve and support, your experience will be much more positive and you will attract what you need to be successful.

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