Building Professional Networks

Professional Networks can make the difference of an individuals potential to be successful. How connected you are helps define your ability to leverage collective knowledge and collective problem solving. It introduces you to new ideas, new places, new opportunities.

After establishing the importance of professional networking, what actually is it? “It is a deliberate activity to build, reinforce and maintain relationships of trust with other people to further your goals” (Anders Ostland).

Ibarra & Hunter (HBR, 2007) wrote that there are three forms of networking: Operational, Personal and Strategic.

  • Operational – helps manage internal company responsibilities.
  • Personal – builds individual personal and professional development.
  • Strategic – plays a vital role in identifying opportunities for growth and engaging stakeholders
Networking HBR
Source: Harvard Business Review (Ibarra & Hunter, 2007)

Building strong relationships across your professional networks establishes an advocacy, in the words of Jon Burgess founder of Kwan

ADVOCACY is an authentic and purposeful way to live your life and do business… consciously understanding who is important, why they are important, what is important to them and how you can remain relevant and top of mind with each other – this is the key to building sustainable, high-value authentic relationships.”

Jon Burgess, Kwan

Operational Networking

Building strong authentic professional networks with colleagues who help you do your job effectively is important to any role. The key purpose to operational networking is to ensure effective coordination and cooperation among people who need to trust one another to accomplish immediate tasks.

Operational networks help you get stuff done, they help resolve problems for projects. Help overcome bureaucracy. Identify critical sources of knowledge and are the basis of effective teams.

Personal Networking

Personal networks are the connections beyond your immediate organisation. They can grow through professional organisations, alumni groups, clubs and personal interest communities.

Personal network enables you to learn and grow by connecting with people who have extend your connections into different circles and with it access to people who think differently, potentially work in different industries and these people may also bring very different perspectives.

Networking is always about building authentic relationships and through that trust to build advocacy.

Strategic Networking

As you move from functional roles to leadership roles the focus of the aspiring leader is to establish a set of relationships and information sources that help them achieve personal and organisational goals.

Ibarra & Hunter (HBR, 2007) write “what differentiates a leader from a manager, research tells us, is the ability to figure out where to go and to enlist the people and groups necessary to get there. Recruiting stakeholders, lining up allies and sympathizers, diagnosing the political landscape, and brokering conversations among unconnected parties are all part of a leader’s job.”

A good indication of the strength of a strategic network is how effectively a leader can use the strategic network to attract resources from one area of a network to achieve results in another.

Strategic Networking includes customers, vendor partners, industry, government, even the media. Where ever you build a relationship that can help you form and successfully execute strategy beyond your direct organisation.

What about if you are just starting

Some advice on building a professional network early in your career. When you first start in a new job or new industry, it can feel almost overwhelming as you start to connect with people. Here are some tips on how to establish a network of authentic connections that will help you build your career.

  1. Prioritise Your Objectives – be clear on what advice, feedback, support, introductions or help you are looking for. By knowing what want to build in your network it will help you identify who you want to meet and build in to an advocate.
  2. Find a Common Purpose – to build a common purpose you need an authentic relationship that
  3. Consider People You Have Already Impressed – you may be surprised that people who you considered outside your area of influence are sometimes aware of you. Use opportunities to build linkage on previous connections with authentic and generous advocacy.
  4. Pay It Forward -You don’t have to be senior in your career to have something to offer others. When you can help others develop their careers by making connections or mentoring. Take the opportunity to give more than you take.
  5. Put Yourself in Front of People You Want to Meet – When you find ways to authentically connect with people, that time with them becomes a source of enjoyment instead of a task.
Synopsis of an article from The Muse
How to Build a Helpful and Well-Connected Professional Network From Scratch
by Leslie Moser

and an article from Forbes
How To Build a Powerful Professional Network Early In Your Career
by Lynn Perkins
Published: 11th January 2019

and an article form Business News Daily
4 Solid Strategies for Expanding Your Professional Network
Published: 10th February 2020

and an article from Harvard Business Review
How Leaders Create and Use Networks
by Herminia Ibarra and Mark Lee Hunter
Published: January 2007

and an article from Good Call
Making Connections: How to Create and Cultivate Your Professional Network
by Zina Kumok

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