Successful people realize that one of the best ways to advance in your career is through networking. Whether it’s getting a promotion at your current job, or finding a new job that gets you to the next level of your career, having a strong network gives you an advantage over those who do not. Building a professional network of colleagues and mentors is not always easy for many people, however there are some steps you can take to get started.
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Maybe one of your concerns is public speaking? You could join a group like Toastmasters and not only learn how to speak in public, but the people you meet there can become the start of your network. Other simple ways to start meeting people for your network is to volunteer. Anything from a Chamber of Commerce to the political party you support would be a good place to start to find like-minded professionals.
A great way to introduce yourself to people at any gathering is to not just simply hand over your business card, have a 10-30 second speech ready to tell them who you are and what your career path is, not simply your job title. Also, make sure you remember their name. If you are sitting at a table as everyone introduces themselves, you could simply write down their name and what they do. Saying their name when talking to them will create a great first impression and a much deeper connection.
Another more recent source of network building is with online social networks. While these can be great if used to build meaningful connections with people, they will not be helpful if your only goal is to get as many “friends” as possible. A great site for building a professional network is LinkedIn, as it allows you to basically post your resume online and connect with those you know and have access to their connections as well.
Finally, keep in mind that your network connections are not just there to help you. Build the relationships within your network by staying in contact and offering to help them when you can. Then if you are looking for a promotion, or perhaps find yourself without a job, you can rely on your network to give you job leads and provide references to help you take the next step in your career.