Your professional network is made up of connections. These are people who support your career goals, offer advice, and give you referrals.
Having the right people in your corner can be the secret to success. In a recent survey, 73% of people said they got a job because of someone they knew.
To create successful connections, your relationships can’t be one-sided. You’ll need to invest time and make sure you offer value to your network.
Maintaining your professional relationships is important both in the short and long term. Whether you’re looking for help with your resume, support with getting a job, or like-minded people to brainstorm with, it all starts with your network.
So, what's expected of you, and how can you give back to your connections? Keep reading to find out.
What is a connection?
Your professional network will usually include a wide range of people. You could have teachers and peers from when you were a student. And, you may still be in touch with previous managers and work colleagues.
If you’re currently employed, the people you work with could be included in your network. Plus, you may have family, friends, and mentors who are supportive of your career.
Your connections are the people you check in with to discuss career goals and achievements. The people you add to your network could be in the same industry or a related field.
When you’re applying for a new job, knowing someone who works at the company can give your application a boost. Chances are, one of your contacts may be able to write you a referral letter.
Some of your connections will be people you meet regularly. For others, you’ll check in every few months. Then, there are online connections that you’ll communicate with via networking sites such as Jobcase.
Where to find new connections
If you want to grow your network, you’ll need to find some new connections. Before you start, think about what you’re looking for. Do you want more job opportunities, or do you want a mentor? Or, maybe you are considering a career change and want some advice.
You can find new connections online or in person. Check with your family and friends and ask if they have any connections that would be a good fit.
For example, you may be thinking about working as a server in a restaurant. A friend may be able to introduce you to someone who has extensive experience in the food services industry.
Your friend could arrange a casual meeting or share the connection’s email address with you. Email can be a useful networking tool because it gives the recipient the chance to respond when it’s convenient.
You can also make new connections on social media websites. Some platforms are designed specifically for professional networking, which makes it easier to find the right people.
Why should you join the Jobcase community?
The Jobcase community is a busy place where you can build your connections online. Once you’ve created a free account, you can follow topics and organizations.
You can ask for advice, read tips, and find new job opportunities. It’s a supportive space designed for people who want to discuss their careers.
Each member has a profile, and when you click on a name, you can learn more about them. You can see work and study information and read praise from other users.
If you think a person would be a good fit for your network, all you need to do is make a connection request. Joining the Jobcase community is easy, and the members are friendly and happy to help.
How can you be valuable to your network?
If you want to maintain a strong network over time, you’ll need to give back to your connections. Let’s take a look at the top six ways that you can be valuable to your network:
1. Give referrals
If someone in your network is looking for work, they may ask you for help. You can share a relevant connection or offer to give them a good reference.
A referral can be given in person, over the phone, or in writing. Here are our top tips for those asking for a referral.
When you recommend somebody for a position, make sure you’re being honest. If you can’t genuinely recommend them, politely decline.
For example, if you haven’t worked with them in a long time, you may not feel comfortable vouching for their current skills.
2. Offer support
Remember, professional connections should be mutually beneficial. So, you should try to support your connections and celebrate their successes.
Have you heard of any job openings in their area? Share the news. Do you have two connections that would benefit from meeting? Let them know.
If your contacts are virtual, interact with them on social media. And, if you have a friend who is preparing for a job interview, why not help them practice the interview questions?
3. Share your experiences
Sometimes, people in your network will be looking for advice and support. A strong network is made up of people with different skill sets and experiences.
You can share your insights and give them the confidence to pursue their goals. For example, let’s say you worked at Amazon in the past. Someone in your network may be thinking about applying there. You can give them tips about the application process and let them know what they can expect if they get the job.
4. Give feedback
From time to time, your connections may ask for your feedback. For example, they could ask you to look over their resume or cover letter. You can check for spelling and grammatical errors and make sure it is formatted correctly.
Or, they might ask for your opinion about their interview outfit. In this instance, you could recommend that they wear business casual or business professional attire.
If your network is online, your connections might publicly ask for feedback. Always try to be supportive, and if you don’t have any suggestions, you can like or share their post.
5. Plan events
Networking in person can be fun and gives your connections a chance to meet each other. Consider planning an event to catch up and discuss career-related topics.
The type of event will depend on your contacts. For example, if your connections are local, you could plan a monthly coffee meeting with a small group of people.
Or, if you have two close connections that you think would be a good fit, invite them to a party or dinner. They could be from the same industry, or one may be looking for a career change.
Sometimes there will be local networking events in your area or online. These can be a great way to meet new people and catch up with those you already know.
6. Be a mentor
If you have a mentor, you know how valuable they can be. Mentors give guidance and advice and set a good example.
Once you’ve gained experience, don’t forget to give back. Consider being a mentor to those who are just starting their careers or people looking to study in a new field. To be a mentor, you’ll need to be patient and supportive.
How to ask a stranger to join your network
Do you want to grow your network? It can be daunting asking people to join, but it gets easier with practice.
You already know how to connect with people from the Jobcase community. And, you can add contacts on other social networking platforms such as Instagram and Facebook.
Don’t forget, if there’s someone you want to connect with, check whether you have a mutual friend. This friend could be someone you know in person or online. Mutual connections can give you an introduction, or you can mention them when you make contact.
Or, if there is someone you work or study with that you’re interested in adding to your network, try to get to know them better.
How often should you check in with your network?
If you don’t stay in touch with your connections, you could lose them. You never know when you may need career support, a letter of recommendation, or advice, so you should stay active in your professional community.
For most connections, checking in once a quarter will be enough. You can interact with online contacts more frequently by participating in any public discussions.
If you have personal connections that you are close friends with, you’ll communicate more regularly. For example, you could have a monthly meet-up on the phone.
Giving back to your network
Your professional network can help you get a job or give you advice when you want to change careers.
However, these relationships need to be mutually beneficial, so you’ll need to give back. To be valuable to your network, you can give referrals, offer support, and share your experiences.
You can plan events, connect with like-minded people, and be a mentor once you’ve gained experience.
With these tips, you can build a strong network, both in person and online.