Need to strengthen your network but not sure how to start? The task can sound overwhelming, particularly when you’re at a crossroads with your job or struggling to find that next opportunity. But working on your network is actually more straightforward than it seems – it is simply strengthening existing relationships and creating new ones. You can do this through easy, everyday actions which can have a huge impact on your career and future goals. Here are 5 to help get you started!
1. Send a personal message to 5 people. Start with the network you already have before trying to create new relationships, even if the connections you want seem different than what you think your existing network can offer. Reach out to contacts from past job experiences or your personal life, since they know your strengths and can endorse you when a relevant opportunity arises. This networking exercise is a good way to organize your contacts and determine the types of contacts you should message. In your message, update your contacts about what’s new in your career and life, and ask them for an update as well. Don’t ask them for an introduction or recommendation if they’re not someone you’ve been in touch with regularly, but do tell them you’re looking to strengthen your network and connect with other professionals. If you’re contacting someone you have kept in touch with, you can take this opportunity to let them know about your career goals or who would you like to meet. You may be surprised by who they know or the opportunities they come across.
2. Have coffee with a diverse colleague or contact. Meet with someone from a different department or function, since they may be exposed to different contacts and opportunities than you. The same goes for contacts who are in a different age group, race, or industry. Strengthening the more diverse areas of your network can lead to finding “linchpins” or connectors to other groups, in which you have no connections. Also, diverse colleagues and contacts think differently than you, so they are the best to contacts to help spur new ideas and expand your perception.
3. Contact 1 person you admire per week. Find people who inspire you or have the career path you desire, even if they are outside your existing network. Mention why you admire them and share your goals. You’d be surprised how many successful professionals want to help others succeed and are just waiting for them to ask. Add value when you can, be specific about why you admire them and make it clear that you’re interested in a relationship, not a favor. Even if you already have a mentor, experts suggest you should have many people in your network providing you with mentorship and advice, not just one person.
4. Update your social media profile. Based on your industry and position, you can choose which social media platforms provide you with the best opportunities to connect and build your presence on them. Regardless of what industry you’re in, be sure to keep your LinkedIn profile updated. An estimated 95% of recruiters use LinkedIn to find candidates, and are attracted to the following aspects of a profile that you can easily update:
- A high-resolution, professional profile picture (increases your views by 14 times)
- Your current position (increases your connection requests by 5 times)
- 5 relevant skills (increases your messages by 31 times)
Another easy way to boost your visibility and make positive connections on LinkedIn is by endorsing others for skills. The gesture is likely to get you some endorsements in return!
5. Add value to another person’s life. As important as networking is to our personal careers and goals, successful networking requires adopting an “others-first” mindset. If you want others to connect you with opportunities and contacts, you need to exhibit that same behavior. Adding value requires understanding your contacts’ needs and challenges (personal or professional). Do they need a connection that you can provide? Can you contribute your time to something they are working on? Increase the likelihood of someone in your network wanting to help you by helping them first.
Contrary to what you may think, strengthening your network doesn’t need to be a massive endeavor. Start by leveraging your existing relationships first then expand to new contacts through simple actions like sending a message. You will be surprised how these everyday actions can make a big difference in your network online and offline and can lead to unexpected opportunities!