It has never been more important to expand your professional network. Whether it’s for new job opportunities, career advancement, gaining new clients or simply growing your professional platform, gaining new contacts in your field are extremely important for long term career success.
Here are some ways you can expand your network in natural and meaningful ways.
Attend Networking Events
Most cities, even small towns, have various networking events that you can attend. The best place to start is with your local chamber of commerce. They often have cocktail hours that you can attend.
Also, check out local or regional chapters of national organizations in your field. For example, if you are a training professional, you can look up your local chapter of Association for Talent Development (ASTD). They have meet and greets and chapter meetings on a monthly basis that you can attend to expand your network.
Trade Shows and Conferences
Another great source for industry contacts is at trade shows and conferences. These are places where everyone attending is interested in expanding their professional network.
Most of these events have time specifically allotted for networking to happen. It’s usually a cocktail hour, breakfast event or even a fun activity scheduled in order to rub elbows with other people in your industry.
Online Professional Networking
The internet is also a great place to expand your network. If you haven’t already, you should setup a LinkedIn account and work on creating a professional and attractive profile.
Then start adding your current professional contacts. Once the people you already know have connected, then you can start connecting with their contacts.
Spend 5-10 each day and add 10-20 contacts in your immediate network. LinkedIn is great in that it shows you who is 2nd or 3rd degree separated from you. Focus on the 2nd level contacts and you’ll have a large network of professionals you can tap on when you need them.
Be a Connector
Another great way to expand your network is by connecting people who should meet. Although it doesn’t expand YOUR immediate network, the next time those two people think of you, they will connect you to others in the same way.
It’s a way to invest and add value to your current network so that they will do the same in the future. Don’t underestimate the power of a good deed to expand your professional network and advance your career.
Be Awesome At What You Do
One of the most powerful ways to expand your network is by producing excellent results for your clients and colleagues. If you’re really good at what you do and you treat those in your network with respect and outstanding service, they will recommend and refer you whenever a need for your skills comes up.
People are usually enthusiastic and excited about referring those who have served them well in the past. Word of mouth, organic marketing is the best way to expand your network.
Never Eat Alone
Okay, this may seem extreme, but get the gist of the idea here. Your meal times are a great opportunity to connect with people.
Next time, instead of eating alone at your desk or going through the fast food drive thru, think about someone you don’t know well who you could eat with. At the end of the meal, after you have thanked them for whatever value they added to you and the time they gave you, ask them, “who else should I meet?”. More times than not, they will think of 2-3 names to refer you to.
These are some of the best ways I’ve found to expand my network. Having a strong professional network is one of the keys to long term success. Hope this helped and good luck out there!