Updated: Dec 31, 2020
When it comes to networking, professionals should strive to connect with as many other professionals as possible. The end goal of networking is not necessarily to find a new job but to build a valuable network of professional colleagues. Having that network will help in your current position by providing mentorship, and potentially lead to the next step in your career.
Maintaining these professional relationships is just as important as making them. It's a bit awkward only to call someone when you need a favor, right? Here's how to start building your network, keep those professional relationships close, and then use them to your advantage in the future.
Always be prepared to network. Everyone you meet could be the lead to your next gig. Carry your business cards around with you everywhere and include the link to your LinkedIn profile. It might be a bit extreme to keep a copy of your resume handy, so make sure your business cards have the link or QR code to your LinkedIn profile, portfolio, or any other website that displays your work.
Opportunities are everywhere; you have to be open to exploring them. Just because you're not looking for a new job right now doesn't make networking a low priority. When the day does come that you decide to change careers, ideally, you'd want to have lots of contacts in your network. They can help you find a job, or they might know someone who is looking for someone like you to fulfill a role in their company.
We've all heard the saying: treat others the way you wish to be treated. The same way you would like for someone else to follow through on that offer of sending your resume along to the recruiter at their company, you should also do the same. Don't just make an offer to be polite. It never hurts to pass along a resume or vouch for a colleague. That favor is more likely to be returned later.
Maintain a relationship with other professionals, whether they are lateral or C-Suite level. Just because someone is a secretary at a company and not the CEO, doesn't mean they're not necessary. Everyone you meet professionally could be the key to the next step in your career and vice versa.
People appreciate authenticity, and that's why it's crucial to stay in touch with colleagues. It's never okay to reach out and ask someone for a favor after not having spoken to them in years.
Always be prepared to meet new people with your best face forward. This means carrying business cards and keeping your LinkedIn profile up to date. You may have a strong lead on a connection for a new job; don't be disappointed if they aren't able to introduce you to the hiring manager like you were hoping. Maintain a positive attitude and view it as a potential opportunity for a follow-up later.
Even if you're not actively looking for a new job, be open to future opportunities. Plus, it could be an excellent pivot for you, even if you didn't think you wanted to leave your current company.