Do you have a professional network?
A professional network is very important for your career. A healthy network takes years to build. How’s yours? Is it active and healthy?
What Is a Professional Network?
Well, let’s start by saying that it is not having 10,000 connections on LinkedIn! Sure, LinkedIn is a very powerful networking tool, but professional networking is much more than having many connections on social media.
A professional network is a system of business contacts with the intent to connect with each other for career, business, or developmental purposes to the benefit of all involved. Sure, a professional network may help you find your next career move, or your next great hire, but it is much much more. They may also assist with problem solving, recommend vendors, suppliers, or professional services. Professional networks can also establish life long mentorship relationships.
How I Got Started.
Way back, I was one of those that thought that a professional network was only necessary if you were looking for a new career opportunity. As I was challenged in my position at the time and not seeking new external opportunities, I did not maintain a professional network. Maintain? Well, I really didn’t have one! Then, a colleague of mine that I hadn’t heard from in a number of years contacted me. He was currently between positions and suggested we get together for a coffee. Believing that my employer wouldn’t be a good cultural fit for this individual and not aware of any openings that would be suitable for him anyway, I declined. But that didn’t stop him. To me, he was relentless and eventually I gave in and met him for a coffee.
That’s ok if you don’t know of any opportunities for me. Let’s just get together and catch up. You never know how we’ll be able to help each other. If not now, someday.
I met this leader that time and to this day have continued to meet with him, exchange phone calls on a regular basis, and we have helped each other out in one way or another countless times over the years. Today, he is the CEO of a large company, and I feel pretty confident, no I know, that he is still there for me today. And I’m there for him. In fact, I spoke to him just yesterday.
If you wait to create a professional network until you need a new career opportunity, it’s too late!
Why Have A Professional Network?
Of course a professional network is critical if you are searching for new opportunities. Or as a leader, your network can be an important source of new hires for your organization. In fact, in this regard your network can be a great form of a “pay it forward” system. You can help others find their next new career opportunity or colleagues find their next superstar hire and some day, they may repay you with the same.
However, the benefits of having and sustaining a healthy network go much further. Below are some examples of additional advantages to having an established professional network:
- Your own growth and development by learning new skills, technology, and approaches
- Give/receive career advice. Others’ points of view are healthy when evaluating careers, next steps, evaluating opportunities, and making career choices/decisions
- Connect others to your connections or each others connections
- Provide mentoring to other leaders
- Receive mentoring from other leaders
- Increase your exposure in an industry, technology, or field of focus
- Exchanging non-proprietary business ideas
- Benchmarking opportunities and exchange of best practices
- Learn of development opportunities such as seminars, training, on-line learning, books
- The social interaction beyond those you interact with daily within your organization can be extremely motivational and inspiring
In a future post, we’ll review the steps necessary to build your network and the investment necessary keep it healthy and active.