Networking can be beneficial to your career in many ways, which is why you should aim to build and maintain strong professional relationships. But what are the best ways to go about doing this within your own professional community? From face-to-face networking through industry events or online through sites like LinkedIn, what’s important is that you reach out to your contact in an appropriate way and on a regular basis, so you can strengthen your relationship and even get professional support when you need it.
To help get you started, here are some of the ways you can build relationships in your industry and support your co-workers and colleagues.
Benefits of networking
First, let’s take a look at the benefits of networking. It can help you become visible to the right people and, in turn, it’ll open doors to new opportunities like being offered a new job or the chance to start your own business. Networking can also help you boost your self-esteem, get you promoted, or negotiate a salary increase.
What’s more, networking gives you the opportunity to learn about a career, a prospective employer or a prospective client, ask for advice or tips, as well as find prospective job candidates if you’re responsible for hiring.
How to build relationships in your industry
When it comes to building relationships in your industry, you have three options:
1. Focus on the three different types of network
There are three types of networks you can build:
- Personal – People who can provide important referrals, as well as offer information and developmental support, eg coaching and mentoring.
- Operational – Managers, superiors, people who have the authority to block or support a project, suppliers, distributors, and customers.
- Strategic – People who can provide opportunities to look at the bigger picture via mentoring or give a different perspective on your organisation to help you reach key business objectives.
2. Make contact in person
You can network with people in person at conferences, seminars, lectures, breakfasts, and lunches that are held by different groups. For example, you can introduce yourself and give your business card to the people at the annual conference.
On the other hand, you could sponsor an event for people in your industry or run your own event and invite people in your field or from your local area. You can also consider joining networking groups run through industry associations to help you keep abreast with changes in your industry and get invited to networking events.
What’s more, you can establish strong business relationships with people in your industry by networking through your family and friends, current and former co-workers, and former professors, instructors, and classmates from your college or university. You can exchange contact details and arrange a meeting.
If you’re shy or not very outgoing and don’t want to attend a networking event, you can form relationships with people in situations that make you feel comfortable. For example, you can participate in an activity you enjoy or do volunteer work that’s relevant to the industry you work in and you’ll meet others with whom you have something in common.
3. Make contact through online platforms
You can also network with people online through sites like LinkedIn and Facebook. This is especially useful if you’re shy or not very outgoing. You can send emails or social media posts or have a video chat.
If you have your own business, it’s a great way to network with other businesses and industry associations and follow up with new contacts. Connecting with your industry online can also help you stay current with events as you can sign up to online newsletters from other businesses and industry associations and get updates about events.
How to support your co-workers and colleagues and strengthen your relationships
Once you’ve built your professional network, there are five ways you can support your co-workers and colleagues and strengthen your relationships, even if they work at ‘rival’ institutions.
1. Help them out with their career goals
You can help a co-worker get a new job or put in a good word for a colleague to help them get the promotion they’ve wanted for the last couple of years. You can also help by keeping them on top of trends and developments in your industry, giving advice about projects, sharing information about job leads, solving work-related problems, recommending vendors and suppliers, or letting them know about prospective employers, employees, and clients.
2. Reach out to them on social media
Cheer on your co-workers and colleagues on social media to let them know you stand behind them. For example, if they update their profile or make a post announcing a promotion or career milestone, send them a short congratulatory post saying something like, “So excited for you!” Or you can simply hit the “like” button. You can also reach out when you start a new job or get a promotion.
3. Send them regular emails or messages
For people you’re closer to, such as a former mentor or a client you’ve worked with a lot of times, send them an email or message every two or three months. You can write, “I saw this article and thought of you” and include a link to an industry publication, or you can just say, “How are you?” The point is to check in and remind them of you and also let them know you’re thinking about them. You can also send a card or email during the holidays.
4. Meet up with them
Plan a small get-together with former co-workers and colleagues, such as a lunch date or a happy-hour outing. You can catch up on old times or discuss work-related matters over cocktails and beer. Make sure to meet up a few times a year.
5. Express your gratitude to them
If a co-worker or colleague taught you a valuable career lesson or helped you land a new job, send them a note or gift to show your appreciation. You can send an email, a social media post, or a handwritten note to make it more personal and meaningful. You can also consider giving them a practical gift like a book on their favourite subject.
Improve your networking skills with Deakin’s Professional Practice Credentials
So there you have it, your professional network can help you land a job, give you advice about a project, or keep you updated with industry changes. That’s why it’s important to strengthen your professional relationships. Put these tips into action and you’ll reap the rewards of career growth and success.
Deakin offers a range of solutions for learning and development that can help you prepare for a new job, and your future career. Find out about how our micro-credentials and other services can assist you by contacting us today.