How to Intentionally Develop a Professional Network

From connecting on LinkedIn to meeting over coffee, today’s busy professionals have many different ways to engage with their communities and grow their network of professional relationships.

For both young professionals and established leaders, a well-cultivated, intentional professional network is a great asset. So how do you make the most of your connections, both online and offline? Here’s how you can clean up the network you have and identify a strategic networking approach that will grow your career.

Develop an inner network of individuals
Effective networking involves identifying a small group of people (typically 12 to 20 individuals) who can impact the future of your career. Ideally, this group consists of people who connect you to outside groups, challenge you in your professional development and hold you accountable. By intentionally cultivating an inner network, you proactively take steps toward achieving professional goals.

Foster your weak ties
Today, some professional connections solely exist online. Engaging with these online connections may feel like a waste of time, but taking the time to share an article on LinkedIn or comment on a tweet will go far in maintaining those relationships. By finding five minutes in your day for these quick acts of engagement you can better capitalize on the power of weak ties. In the process, remind yourself that being intentional about building relationships is not a waste of time; it’s an investment in your career.

Say yes strategically
Before you say ‘yes’ to a person or experience, think about your goals and how this person or experience will help you achieve them. Develop an approach that helps you identify the best networking opportunities for you. By only saying yes to people and opportunities you care about, you can make sure that you’re adding the right people to your network and experiencing authentic interactions. It can be hard to find the time to say yes if you’re juggling meetings and deadlines; but, focusing on what you care about will streamline the process while giving you access to new information and resources.

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Emily Knippa

Emily Knippa is a St. Louis-based marketer and writer who focuses on content marketing, career development, and personal finance. She enjoys meeting people pursuing inspiring career paths. She’d love to meet you at the next United Way event. Say hello to Emily on Twitter at @emilyknippa.