The importance of building a wide professional network is more significant today than in the last century; nowadays it’s an essential tool so as to keep on learning, draw inspiration from people working in a similar work field and, of course, get in contact with relevant people who may help you develop your career.
In your workplace
Networking starts inside your own company. Although at first sight this statement may seem a little awkward, the truth is that in many big companies the number of employees is so high that it’s difficult to know all the staff. If we add departmental organization to the mix, you’ll have to get busy should you want to be acquainted with everybody.
The advantages of broadening your internal network are not few. According to a recent study by Randstand and Future Workplace, 29% percent of millennials feel they’re not prepared to solve conflicts, 28% of them have a hard time when negotiating and 27% struggle when having to lead other people. And 2 out of 10 young employees admit that they find teamworking a difficult task. Enhancing good internal communication helps dealing with all these issues in a bidirectional way and entails a closer approach regarding the understanding of the company’s operational strategy.
In addition, a study conducted by the University of Oxford concluded that those jobs demanding most interaction among co-workers or customers are less likely to become automated in the future. Practicing these social skills in the workplace helps maintaining fluent communication between you and your colleagues so that all parties can benefit.
Events and meetings
Attending meetings and forums has an educational purpose. It is the best way to be up-to-date with the latest trends in your sector. One of the motivations leading you to those events should be networking, though. The chance to meet other professionals with more experience in your field should be a great source of learning for you. And it allows you to discover what other companies in the sector are up to, thus providing you with a source of inspiration.
An interesting option to share your professional interests with other enthusiasts in your sector are meetups, regular meetings of people who share a particular interest and have connected with each other through a social-networking website. The rise of this trend is unrelenting: the most important platform in Spain grows by 90% annually and has more than 100 000 members in technology-related groups only.
Presence in social media is essential to get in contact with new people and, on a professional level, the best option is LinkedIn. The website Entrepreneur advises to send invitations to highly-recognized professionals in your sector —with a network of more than 500 people and well-configured and updated profiles— even if you don’t know them personally. The key lies in being transparent and explaining why are you interested in getting in contact with them, putting the stress on what you can bring to the table. After all, the most extended piece of philosophy in this social network is that everybody can learn from everybody else.
The “six degrees of separation” theory can be suitably applied in this instance. This hypothesis claims that two individuals from different parts of the world are connected by a string of acquaintances of, at most, five links. In that respect, the range of social media is wider than what it could be imagined at first. If you have a network of 100 people and each one of them is connected to another 100, you’re surfing a network of 10 000 second-degree contacts.
The relevance of improving your network in the digital environment opens up the job-search side of things, too. If you participate actively in an online community, it will make things easier and it will also take you less time to enter the labour market again. A recent survey by the career site CareeerBuilder highlights that social media activity is being taken into account like never before: 7 out of 10 open positions are filled thanks to the LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter profiles of the candidates. And the growth is exponential: in 2006, barely 11% of social media profiles were considered.
Adopting an omni-channel strategy
Personal-branding expert Andy Stalman has coined the term BrandOffOn, defined as the necessity to combine the promotion of said brand on- as well as offline. “Analogue does not die so that digital arrives: analogue comes to feed digital back and vice versa”, he explained. Thus, it’s essential to understand that building a network is not an issue exclusive to social media activity or forum and meeting attendance: the key lies in a combination of promoting your LinkedIn profile whenever you go to an event and using digital media to connect with other professionals so that you can meet them in person. This is known as omni-channelling.