One of the most valuable skills you can develop is the ability to network well. An overwhelming majority of chief financial officers surveyed by Robert Half International said networking with other industry contacts is important for career advancement. Even if you’re not actively seeking a new position, establishing a range of contacts will help you expand your knowledge base, enhance your interpersonal skills and uncover “hidden” career opportunities.
Here are some tips to help you build your professional network:
- Identify your contacts.
Compile a list of people who might be in a position to help you, those to whom you can turn with questions about skills in demand or for news of potential job openings. Professional associations, alumni groups and community organizations are all valuable resources. Current or former colleagues, family members and friends also are good contacts and often the best place to start your outreach.
- Make the connection.
Networking requires confidence and determination. Develop a 20-second sales pitch that conveys concisely who you are and what you do. When approaching someone for the first time, introduce yourself, learn a bit about the individual and exchange business cards.
- Maintain your network.
Once you’ve established your connections, keep in touch. Regular communication demonstrates professionalism and sincerity and will keep your contact base active.
- Become a resource.
Networking is as much about giving help as receiving it. Look for opportunities to provide people with useful information, such as forwarding a news article relevant to a contact’s industry. Above all, be responsive when someone requests your time or assistance.