Everyone talks about how important it is to build your professional network to advance in your career, but getting started can feel awkward or intimidating.
If that feeling is holding you back, remember that networking is just another form of relationship building–a process rooted in genuine curiosity and a desire to get to know the other person well. To begin:
- Think about what you’re interested in talking about or who you might want to learn from or share your aspirations with. You can start the conversation with those you know, such as your peers, professors, mentors, current and past co-workers, and field supervisors. They may even recommend others to reach out to.
- At the same time, don’t be afraid to cold contact those you don’t yet know. Online networking platforms liked LinkedIn make it easier to connect with others, particularly those within your school network, such as CSSW’s LinkedIn Group, and other interest-based communities.
- Don’t limit yourself to “networking” platforms and events either. Any opportunity where you can engage with others with shared interests and goals, including social and community events, volunteer activities, and online forums, is a prime way to bridge a new connection.
Whomever you choose to connect with, make sure that the engagement isn’t one-sided or transactional. Just like in any meaningful relationship, even if you’re the one asking for insights and advice, you can demonstrate your respect and appreciation by letting them know how their support impacted you or sharing information and resources that may be of benefit to them.