Successful career development doesn’t just rely on skills, ambition and work ethic, nor is it simply a case of being in the right place at the right time, but in the relationships we build along the way. Establishing strong professional connections can help us secure new jobs, progress in our existing roles, and learn and share new skills.
Of course, the world currently looks very different to how it did a year ago, with remote working commonplace and meetings and events no longer happening in person. However, networking apps can be a great way to make meaningful connections to help you progress in your industry.
The value of building professional relationships
Whilst networking is ideal for those looking for a job in the here and now, it holds benefits longer term too. Using networking apps for business allows you to consider different points of views and ideas that can make you better at your current job. It could help you progress to a higher position within the company you already work for, and it can help you make a name for yourself in your industry.
It’s also a widely accepted fact that people conduct business with people they know and like, and that’s especially true during times like now, where risk levels are naturally higher. This could be a one-off sale or acquisition, a lucrative long-term contract, or it could equally apply to your next employment.
On a softer level, it’s about a sense of community and camaraderie too. Surrounding yourself with the right network of contacts can provide you with somewhere to turn for advice, support and feedback.
How to build a network of valuable contacts using virtual networking apps
Networking isn’t about aggressively pursuing strangers, but simply getting to know new people, and developing connections with people you’d like to get to know better. With that in mind, some of the best advice to follow could relate to cultivating and maintaining all kinds of relationships:
Have a clear idea of what you’re looking for
Whether you’re simply trying to broaden your knowledge, land a specific role, or become a more influential figure in your field, it helps to define some loose goals to work backwards from. This can dictate everything from the kind of people you want to get to know, to which platforms you strike up conversations on, plus it allows you a roadmap to mark your progress against.
Understand who you want to build relationships with
This could be people you already know, people who you may have drifted from, acquaintances or people you’ve never met. It could encompass current colleagues, ex colleagues, industry peers, or just someone whose work has caught your eye. The great thing about having a network of contacts, is that you end up with a collection of individuals who can help to enhance your career in different ways, whether that’s just through watching their webinars, or through regular chats about where to take your career next. It’s not all about selecting the most influential or powerful people in your sector (although there’s no harm in that), but in identifying people whose work, approach or achievements you admire and would want to emulate.
Select the right platforms
For some, the idea of networking can be overwhelming and unsustainable. What can start out as a well-intentioned resolution can quickly fall by the wayside during busy times, which is why it’s important to be realistic in your goals. Rather than promising yourself to post daily across 4 social media channels, pick one or two sites, forums or networking apps for business and put the time and effort into building momentum there.
Community based apps like Guild can be better suited to building genuine relationships than large networks such as LinkedIn that can be oversaturated with heavy sales and marketing messages. With more of an emphasis on helping each other, stronger bonds can be formed that have more of a lasting impact on your career.
Be mindful of etiquette
The aim is to nurture and develop relationships that stand the test of time, so if you’re speaking to people you haven’t conversed with in a while (especially if it’s with a request in mind), be prepared to put in the time to catch up. If you’re reaching out to someone new, you might want to respect their time, but pleasantries still go a long way, as does showing genuine interest in someone else’s life and career.
The last thing you want to do is put people on the spot or make them feel pressured or uncomfortable, which is why, even if you have a specific goal in mind, it’s better to ask for advice than for a job. It’s all in the language you use, and makes it easier to keep the conversation flowing. Ultimately as humans, we enjoy the feeling of helping others, so don’t be scared to tap into this.
Find ways to reciprocate
The point of a strong professional network is in creating mutually beneficial relationships, so always be thinking about how you can return the favour. This could be from something small such as asking your contact how a recent meeting, event or call went, to helping to promote their content, or leaving a review or recommendation online.
Simply checking in periodically also helps to strengthen that relationship, and keeps you front of mind.
Using networking apps for business is a great step towards establishing a strong group of professional contacts, but it’s the way you maintain and build these relationships that can really help to guide your career.
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