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Networking often feels like a full-time job on top of your full-time job. Yet it is an essential part of professional development. When done right, networking can open the door to new possibilities, create beneficial relationships, and build avenues for information trade.

So, how does one build their professional network? That is the question most commonly asked, especially from younger professionals. Here are a few tips to get you started. Following these tips will help you get the hang of networking. Once you’ve done that, you can run with what works best for you.

Be Genuine

When you were a kid, were you always told to “be yourself” when trying to make friends? That’s true in professional networking. Be yourself. Be genuine. Remember that the people you’re trying to connect with are human. If you approach any new potential professional relationship with respect and humanity, you’ll have more success.

Don’t Push It

Professional relationships are like any other – you can’t push or force them. Let the relationship flow organically. If a potential connection doesn’t click, it is okay to let that one go and move on.

Add to Your LinkedIn Contacts

LinkedIn is an excellent resource for professionals. It’s essentially a social media account specifically designed for networking. Don’t be afraid to add new professional acquaintances to your LinkedIn account. Doing so will provide you with opportunities to keep in touch and potentially grow the relationship further. All while adding little to no pressure.

Keep in Touch

It’s essential to keep in touch with your professional contacts. Remember that building a network is more than meeting people and moving on. You need to nurture the relationships you’re hoping to maintain. That means checking in, seeing how they’re doing, and offering advice and help as needed. 

Give As Much (Or More) Than You Take

You can’t create a professional relationship and lean on them repeatedly, expecting a constant flow of aid. If you’re not putting anything back into the relationship, that professional will eventually cut contact and walk away. Like any relationship, this is all about giving and taking. Ideally, you should put the same amount into a relationship as you take out – if not more. This will allow the relationship to continue to grow and build instead of withering.

Respond In Kind

Remember how difficult it was to create those first few connections when you first started? This is what other professionals are going through right now. When a young professional reaches out, hoping to add you to their contacts, be willing to pay it forward by helping them out.