Practical Ways to Expand Your Professional Network
Updated: Jan 4
Building, maintaining, and expanding your professional network is a tricky business in the normal world and especially in the fashion industry. And now, with the pandemic and its many restrictions, the challenges in this domain have only increased. From physical meetings turning into virtual to the restrictions of interacting behind the digital screens, the roads have certainly tightened for networking.
At the same time, this is possibly the time when it’s needed the most to sustain and grow in the industry, despite the pandemic’s repercussions. And, this is also where most professionals lack. Now, whether the pandemic’s effects are playing a role or not, here are some things that can come in the way of professionals and the expansion of their network. Identify what is stopping you to maintain or expand your professional network, to target that area with some practical ways and change of mindset. - Lack of knowledge
While there are countless mediums of networking and growing your professional circle and while you may also be aware of them all, you may not necessarily know which one is meant for you. All of us come with different personalities, mindsets, and approaches to human relationships, including professional relationships. We all also come with different needs and requirements, and knowing exactly which networking medium, platform, and kind of sources to rely on for them, is important. So, when we say lack of knowledge, it not only means lack of awareness of what resources are available to you virtually or physically but also what exactly is fitting for your specific needs. - Lack of confidence
Your self-confidence and belief in yourself and your work are directly equivalent to your networking skills. With low confidence, you may neither be able to initiate a networking opportunity nor engage in an existing one effectively. As a common trait that hampers the potential of networking, this can be readily worked on. It is a given that confidence can change not only the way you see yourself but also the way others view you. Moreover, with confidence, your entire demeanour changes, attracting the right tribe and more towards you.
- Shyness or fear of public speaking
Another inhibition that might come in the way while you try to expand your professional network is fear and shyness, which can come in the way of many opportunities and not just networking. But, if you’re looking to grow your career, you have to grow your skills and network, especially in an industry like fashion. For that, working on these fears is a must! Start with the basics, with baby steps–say, be a part of a virtual networking meeting and begin with saying a ‘Hi’ and introduce yourself. Practice it pre-hand and trust us, once you start, you’ll automatically find renewed confidence and in turn, growth.
Source: Getty Images Now, here are some practical ways using which you can expand your network and impact your awareness, confidence, and overcome any inhibitions too. VIRTUAL PLATFORMS First things first, we live in a completely digital world, where online networking has also become a lot easier for people. With a plethora of options and platforms available today like LinkedIn and Instagram for starters, expanding your network can become fun too. While LinkedIn is the most popular platform meant exactly for this professional purpose, Instagram is a mostly informal one, which can definitely be used for this as well. Here’s how you get started. - Create and Upgrade
When it comes to LinkedIn, it’s important to first give your profile enough time and dedicate your energy. It’s where all the highlights of your professional background, experience, and achievements go. It’s also where you have the liberty to position yourself as a strong professional by portraying exactly what you do, how you do, and what are you here to offer. So, make sure you create a simple but stunning profile that conveys this and also keep updating it as you take new steps in your career. - Follow the Right People
Here’s the key. Making a profile isn’t enough to expand a professional network. That just forms the base from where the rest of your steps bud. And, here is the second one–connect with the right people. Follow founders or co-workers from your dream companies or those that you’re fond of. Connect with people you have worked with previously or those you’d like to work with. Connecting with the right people from your industry and some from diverse ones is what will pave the way for the next few steps.
- Interact with Others
Once you follow and connect with industry experts, professionals, and more, go ahead and scroll your feed regularly and engage with their posts. A simple like can also go a long way sometimes! The point here is to gain visibility and build a presence even if it’s simply by liking or sharing someone’s post. So, don’t hesitate from liking, commenting on, and sharing feed posts that educate you, move you, or simply entertain you. - Create Useful Content
Of course, it takes two! While you also engage with others' posts, you must also give something to your audience, whether it is big or small. Take your background, experience, knowledge, and passion for your work as a muse and churn out content that may help, inspire, or educate someone. Use your expertise in the given field to create meaningful posts or even simply to share a piece of work online that impacted you.
ENGAGE AND ENCOURAGE
Virtual or physical, you can engage with and encourage your existing network or build a new one by initiating engagement and encouragement. Here’s how! - Collaborate
Use your current online or physical network to get leads for other professionals whom you could collaborate with on a project. Collaborations are, hands-down, the best effective way to expand your network. There is always someone who will refer you to someone or someone you’d refer to, and that’s how the cycle is ongoing and hence, effective.
- Join Clubs
Join networking clubs that conduct both online and offline events that give the opportunity for you to engage with other professionals. These clubs are usually a great way to find leads for collaborations as well. The key is to step up, take charge, and not be hesitant to be a part of something that can be so enriching for your personal and professional growth.
Source: Getty Images - Compliment
Don’t shy away from telling someone how you love their work or contribution to the industry. Whether it is a fellow classmate, a co-worker, or someone revered in the field. Convey your fondness of their work to them with a message on their social media, their LinkedIn, an email, or even a special media post acknowledging their work.
HELP & ASK FOR HELP - Help others
Don’t hold back from offering help to anyone who comes by for a professional hand. Be it a colleague or someone who is simply looking for a collaboration with someone you know. Whatever the context may be, offer to help people. - Ask for help
And lastly, don’t be afraid to ask for help. We’re all humans after all, and all of us are still learning. It’s human nature to need assistance from time to time and unlike many myths, those who ask for help are in fact, showing more confidence than those who don’t. So, drop the hesitancy and ask for help. Final Words
As practical and simple as these ways are, they are also the kind of ways that work in layers and in subtlety. None of these ways will bring you closer to your goal of expanding your networking instantly. They all work little by little towards the goal by building a name, a presence amongst the people of your industry. In other words, they contribute to that goal slowly and steadily, so you not only expand your network but also do so with quality connections.