Editor’s note: The following blog has been updated as of October 2023.
Whether you are employed or are in the job-seeking process, it is essential to recognize the benefits of a strong social network. Who doesn’t want to be a member of a mutually supportive community?
But how do you expand your community? How do you go from knowing a few people to having a thriving social network?
To expand your social network, you must take initiative. You must actively engage others. Depending on your personality, it may feel awkward and nerve-wracking for quite some time—regardless, you must reach out to others.
Consider this: You attend a one-day workshop in your career field or desired career field. You arrive two minutes before the program begins, sit at an empty table, soak in the information, eat your packed lunch, and dart out as soon as the workshop concludes. Maybe that’s how you’re most comfortable. I get it! There is no need to ask for assistance during the buffet lunch, no awkward social interactions…
Same scenario, different decisions
Let’s look at the same scenario. You attend a one-day workshop in your career field. This time, however, you arrive twenty minutes before the program begins, listen to where others congregate, and introduce yourself. You sit with your new acquaintances, choose to be warm and friendly, and ask for assistance navigating the buffet lunch. You chat during breaks to get to know a few people better, exchange contact information, and maybe even stick around a few minutes after the program concludes to engage in further conversation; after all, you have to wait to catch the bus anyway!
Depending on your personality, the second scenario may have been extremely uncomfortable. Again, I get it. But your initiative expanded your social and possibly even your professional networks.
Perhaps you met a new friend, mentor, mentee, new client, future coworker, an inspiration, or a brainstorming buddy.
Engage With Others
Here’s how you can expand your professional network by taking opportunities, such as the above scenario, to engage with others:
- Don’t miss opportunities. If you’re invited to lunch or elsewhere and can make it work, go build relationships! If you turn it down, it may be the only invite you receive from this individual or group.
- Look for opportunities. Seek professional organizations, workshops, conferences, or courses in your career field, and meet people in person!
- Create opportunities to foster relationships. Invite people you know to appropriate activities they would likely enjoy. Another idea for creating opportunities is placing a candy dish on your desk. You may just get a lot more visitors!
So, get out there, don’t limit yourself to your comfort zone, and make contacts.