One of the best ways to leapfrog the competition and land yourself a job is through utilizing your professional network. Building and cultivating that network is just as essential as managing your career. Many forget to continue networking once they land their dream job. The reality is that networking never stops and neither should you!

“It is very tempting in these understaffed times to do the work at hand simply to get through the day,” says Marcia Finberg, a healthcare marketer. “Unless you nurture your network, you can be caught short if, say, your hospital goes into red ink and heads roll.”

Ask yourself if your professional network is strong. Regardless of your answer, there’s always room for improvement!

Here are three tips to take your professional network to the next level.

Establish Your Network Demographic

Before you can make your network better you have to know what you want it to look like.

Do you want to stick to one industry or branch out? (ex: Sales Executives in IT, Healthcare, Insurance)

Do you want to look for people in higher-level positions so that you can be mentored?

Do you want to network nationally or stay local?

What kind of personalities do you want to be in your network?

“Begin by writing a list of words and phrases that would describe the people you want to meet, get to know, and with whom you want to build positive and helpful professional relationships,” says consultant Patti DeNucci. When you figure out what you want to attract, you must also reflect those same positive characteristics. “You want to be someone that others want to know as well. Solid networks are built on mutual trust, respect, and helpfulness.”

Know What You Offer

No matter the type of relationship, no one likes a one-sided relationship. Do your best to bring something to the table with those you network with so that it feels mutual.  If you can help someone else they are more likely to want to help you!

“Helping others is one way to get into good graces with them,” says Suzanne Garber, a Chief Networking Officer.

“Share your expertise and knowledge in your particular area. Connect people with others in your network to help advance their business. Take the focus off of you and put it onto others.

You know that guy “Bob” who only calls because he wants something and the feeling of dread that ensues? Don’t be ‘Bob.’

You want people to be happy when you walk into a room, not when you exit.”

Get Organized

Consider developing a good electronic filing system for your contacts. Most phones allow you to add “notes” underneath a contact’s record. Take advantage of this feature or use a notes-type app. Don’t rely on pieces of paper or business cards that you might lose.

Also, remember that networking is an all-season sport. There is no championship. Stay in touch with your connections via whatever social media that you use, but especially on Linkedin.

With all these tips you’ll be well on your way to networking like a pro!

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