Building a professional network is important no matter your career field. My recent move to the Midwest from the East Coast has given me a unique opportunity to build a new professional network, while also working to maintain the network I built out east. In order to balance both, I keep a few fundamental rules in mind to ensure that I am maintaining and expanding my reputation for professionalism.
Politeness is the quintessential characteristic to both maintaining and growing your network.
You, as a professional, want to have a reputation as someone who is polite, considerate, and who gives off the impression that they are genuinely interested in a working relationship with others. Showing you are polite comes in many forms. Listen closely, be engaged in conversation, and of course, say “please” and “thank you.” Individuals would much rather build and maintain a connection with someone who is polite rather than someone who is careless in the way they speak to others.
Be an active listener and ask plenty of questions.
This helps you not only understand how others can fit into your network, but it gives people an opportunity to talk about themselves and feel valued. Being remembered as someone who takes interest in others not only makes people more inclined to genuinely connect with you, but it helps reduce the possibility of you being known as someone who just uses others for their connections.
Maintaining a network is just as important, if not more so, than expanding it.
Go to events, follow up with people you meet, and work to cultivate the connections you already have. Staying in contact with those who you already have relationships with will eventually give you access to their connections, as well, because they will be comfortable introducing you to who they know.
If done right, networking can open so many doors and opportunities for you. Whether it is the ability to advance your career, or even to meet new and interesting people, having a trustworthy and reliable network is essential.