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Networking and relationship building for career success

November 27, 2023
Portrait of smiling conference attendees gather to network.

In the ever-evolving landscape of the modern job market, networking skills and relationship building are indispensable tools for career development. These essential soft skills, are not only beneficial for landing that dream job but also for advancing within your current organization and seizing new opportunities. This article will delve into the importance of building professional relationships and explore how networking skills can contribute to your career growth.

The power of networking strategies and relationship building

Networking strategies and relationship building are the cornerstones of career development.1 They are not just about amassing a vast number of contacts, but rather cultivating meaningful relationships and connections with professionals who can offer support, guidance, and opportunities. Your professional network can be a source of valuable information, referrals, and support during your career journey.

To effectively network, start by setting clear goals. What are you looking to achieve through your networking efforts? Whether it's finding a job, advancing in your current organization, building relationships, or exploring new opportunities, your goals should guide your networking strategy.

Leveraging your online presence

In the digital age, your online presence is your virtual business card. Employers and professional contacts will often research you online before deciding to connect or work with you. It's crucial to maintain a professional and consistent online presence.2

A well-optimized LinkedIn profile is essential for networking and relationship building. Use a professional profile picture, craft a compelling summary, and list your skills and experiences. Be mindful of what you post on other social media platforms as well. Keep your personal and professional lives separate to maintain a positive online image.3 

In addition, consider creating a personal website or blog to showcase your expertise and thoughts in your field. This can serve as a portfolio or resume and highlight your commitment to your profession.

Crafting an elevator pitch

An elevator pitch is a concise and compelling introduction that can be delivered in the time it takes to ride an elevator. It should convey who you are, what you do, and what sets you apart from other professionals. Crafting a strong elevator pitch is vital for networking events, job interviews, and even casual encounters.4

Your elevator pitch should be well-rehearsed but not sound robotic. It should come across as natural and genuine. Remember to focus on the value you bring to the table and how your skills and experience can benefit your listener.

The significance of professional events

Professional events, whether in-person or virtual, are treasure troves for career development and relationship building. Attending conferences, seminars, workshops, and industry-specific events can open doors to new connections and opportunities.

When attending these events:

  1. Be Prepared: Research the event, its speakers, and attendees in advance. Knowing who will be there allows you to target specific individuals and be more prepared for conversations
  2. Engage Actively: Don't be a passive observer. Engage in conversations, ask questions, and share your insights. Active participation can leave a lasting impression
  3. Follow Up: After the event, follow up with the contacts you’ve made. Send a thank-you email or a LinkedIn connection request. Mention something specific from your conversation to help them remember you

The role of mentorship

A mentor is someone with experience in your field who can guide and support your professional growth. They offer insights, advice, and a broader perspective on your career trajectory.

To find a mentor, look for individuals in your organization or field whom you admire and respect.5 Offer value and show that you’re committed to your own growth and willing to learn. Mentors are more likely to invest their time in someone who is eager to absorb knowledge and grow. To get the most out of your mentorship, set clear goals and regularly check in with your mentor. This shows your commitment and helps maintain the relationship.

Informational interviews

Informational interviews are a great way to learn from experienced professionals and expand your network. These interviews are not about asking for a job, but about gathering insights and career advice.

To conduct effective informational interviews, identify your potential contacts. Then develop a list of well-researched questions that demonstrate your interest and respect for the person’s time. During the interview, focus on listening more than talking. Take notes and ask for further clarification when necessary. After the interview, send a thank-you email to show your appreciation and maintain the connection.6

Effective follow-up

Follow-up is a critical component of fostering a strong professional and personal network and relationship building. You can make a connection meaningful by sending a follow-up shortly after an event or interaction. This keeps the conversation relevant and shows your interest. Offer something of value to the other person, whether it's a relevant article, a helpful resource, or an additional contact. Stay consistent and regularly check in with your contacts, even if it's just a brief message to say hello.7

Personal branding

Your personal brand is what sets you apart from others in your field. It’s a combination of your skills, experiences, values, and the way you present yourself. Cultivating a strong personal brand can enhance your career prospects, build relationships, and attract opportunities.

Reflect on what makes you unique. What are your strengths, values, and areas of expertise? Use this as a foundation to build meaningful relationships. Ensure that your personal brand is consistent across all aspects of your professional life. Share your knowledge and insights in your field through blogs, articles, or public speaking. This not only establishes you as an expert but also helps in networking.8

Career growth through networking and relationship building

Your network can help you discover new job and openings, provide referrals, and offer support during challenging times. By establishing and nurturing professional relationships with peers, mentors, and colleagues, you open doors to opportunities, knowledge, support, and guidance that can propel your career to new heights. Remember that networking and relationship building are not one-time endeavors but ongoing processes that can lead to career development and fulfillment in your professional life.

The Marquette University online MBA program offers a wealth of networking opportunities and events with leaders in the field to jumpstart your career. Get in touch with an admissions outreach advisor and take the first step toward career success.