Very wise guest post by Melissa Crossman…(Thanks Melissa! :)- you are singin’ my “networking song!”)

There are several ways you can bolster your career. You can enlist a resume service to keep your portfolio current, you can stay abreast of industry trends, but one of the easiest- and most important- things you can do is pay careful attention to your professional network.

 

Maintaining your professional networking is one of the most important things you can do for your career. Not only can it be a rich resource for you when you are looking to make a career change or should you unexpectedly find yourself looking for a job, but members of your network also serve as an invaluable group that can provide a wealth of knowledge and assistance to you in a wide range of career aspects. Like any network of relationships, however, your professional network requires caring and consistent maintenance. Below are several things to keep in mind while building and maintaining your professional network:

 

1. Your networking activity should be mutually beneficial. As you begin to build your network, the most important thing to keep in mind is that this is not simply a tool to be used at your disposal. If you seek to be the only one who benefits from your connections, you will not get much out of it. Your network should be a community from which everyone can gain. Think about how you can use your strengths to assist others and don’t be afraid to connect people to people. If you know two people whom you think might benefit from knowing one another, introduce them!

2.  Regular contact is key. As you choose individuals who you feel you’d benefit from and whom you think could contribute to your network, be sure to keep in regular contact with them. You don’t need to email them daily or even weekly; you just need to be sure they remember who you are and you remember who they are. Don’t reach out to people only when you need something. It is obvious when someone is doing this, and if this is the way that you primarily communicate, you’re not likely to get what you need, anyway.

3.  Everyone in your network is important. You have hopefully chosen each and every one of these people for a reason. Remember that! These are personal connections you’re making, and it should be gratifying to build authentic relationships with these individuals. In addition to keeping in regular contact with them regarding professional matters, occasional personal notes are always nice, too.  Always send thank-you notes when appropriate, but birthday and holiday cards and congratulatory notes are never a bad idea. Little gestures can go a long way.

4.  Get involved! Alumni meetings and professional organizations are great, and I strongly recommend joining a few of these groups so that you can meet like-minded individuals or people who are in the same field you’re in. Try to think outside the box, though. Volunteer your time for a charity that has always interested you or join a book club. If you have the time, try to broaden your horizons. You never know where you might meet people who could become valuable assets to your professional life.

5.  Never burn your bridges. You never know where you or anyone else is going to be in five years. That person in the cubicle next to you that you can’t stand could end up being your boss.

Having a strong network is essential to professional success, and a strong network requires consistent and thoughtful maintenance. If you build your network with the goal of assisting others as much as you help yourself, it will be an invaluable tool for your career.

Melissa Crossman is an avid blogger who enjoys learning about all things professional. She just earned her MBA and is actively interviewing. www.resumeservice.com