A professional network can be extremely valuable at all stages of your career. When you’re job hunting, your network may help you find your next role. But a professional network can also do so much more, from helping you solve challenges at work to giving you much needed information about potential clients. Here is what you should know.

What Is a Professional Network?

A professional network is a group of people who connect on business-related topics. It’s easy to assume that your network should consist only of people in your industry, but this is a misconception. In fact, your network can include nearly anyone you meet. But you should only include people you trust, as you wouldn’t want to be associated with someone else’s shady business dealings. Examples of contacts in a typical professional network include:

  • Friends and relatives. Even if they have nothing to do with your industry, your friends and relatives generally want to see you succeed. If they are able to connect you with someone who could boost your career, they’re likely to do so.
  • Coworkers. Anyone you work with now or have worked with in the past is a potential member of your network, especially if you have built a bond.
  • Professional association members. This can be slightly challenging if you’re an introvert, but putting yourself out there can result in highly useful contacts. Attend professional events and hand your business card to those with whom you connect. Even better? Consider serving on a committee.
  • Professors. Add members of the faculty from any college or university you attended, especially those in your major.
  • Alumni. In addition to classmates who were your personal friends, search your high school and college alumni directories for those who are working in your industry.

Maintaining Your Network

Building a network is relatively easy, but maintaining it requires an active commitment. Regularly reach out to your contacts throughout the year, from sending holiday greetings to touching base over the summer. Let them know what you’re doing and inquire about their current accomplishments as well. If you hear of someone in your network changing jobs or getting a promotion, send congratulations. Offer to meet up when a contact comes to town. You don’t necessarily have to be friends, but you should always be friendly. Nobody likes to hear from someone only when that person needs something.

Looking for a New Position?

If you’re ready for your next career move, let The Resource put our experience to work for you. We’re here to help you find and land just the right position. Apply online or call your local office to get started.