Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Grow Your Professional Network or Die

 By: Jamie Kavanagh

As a displaced Northwestern graduate student living in Chicago, a city well known for having an abundance of working professionals, I found myself wondering, as newbie, how I could meet them or at least some of them. Having landed my last two jobs from contacts in my network I knew a limited professional network in my new hometown was a problem. Luckily through a few small steps I have found myself immersed in new connections.

The first thing I did and recommend others do, is took stock of all the people in my life.  Having moved away from Detroit I left behind great relationships with senior executives at General Motors. I quickly went out to LinkedIn and sent personalized requests to stay connected. I also made sure that my social network included all my day-to-day co-workers, friends and family.

While I may not have had an office full of co-workers waiting for me in Chicago, I did have classmates and faculty.  Before I immediately spammed them all with LinkedIn requests, I built personal relationships or found points of interest on their professional pages to relate to them with over email to forge a personal meeting. I find that even when I don't know a desirable professional connection on LinkedIn I can find a mutual friend or shared interest to gain that connection.

It is also important to act quickly when connecting with new people who you meet either socially or professionally and can be done easily by reaching out to them on twitter and giving them some #twitterlove.  Fast company just posted an article on the importance of keeping up with old contacts as well.  http://bit.ly/IPYeXA

Another great way I built my network came when I volunteered a small amount of my time with the local chapter of the American Marketing Association (www.chicagoama.org).  These types of organizations are great because they hone your skill sets and set up happy hours!

Your acquaintances will get you that next job, not your friends so I can't stress the importance of building your network. To get started try the following three things.

1. Join a new local professional group, either via LinkedIn or in person

2. Take stock of your current connections and make sure you have them all in your digital network - this will allow you to view their connections

3.  Follow three new people on twitter who push out information relevant to your industry to build your knowledge base making for easier conversation with all of your new connections

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