“Many of the successful people in the world say that they owe their success not only to their own skills but to all the people that help them achieve their goals, others say that it is not enough being smart, you have to be surrounded by smart people. Given this, you can know how important is to have the right people near you, keeping a good network of friends, partners and clients can help achieve your goals faster and more efficiently. Nowadays there are lots of tools to help you manage your networks, you could take advantage of several options that they offer to their users. We are going to focus on these advantages and in the importance of having a solid professional network.”
Keywords: professional networks, potential customers, colleagues, friends, profile, business, visibility.
Recently, the number of sites dedicated to social networking has been growing. Sites like Hi5 (http://www.hi5.com/) and Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/) have become really popular between Internet users of all ages, popularity that grows thanks to the fact that people can keep in touch with friends, meet new people, share pictures, hobbies and stories among other things.
Along with social networking sites, the popularity of sites for professional networking has been growing as well; one example is LinkedIn (http://www.linkedin.com), a professional networking site with thousands of users from all over the world.
This type of sites have all the same advantages as social networking sites, but adding their own features and focusing mainly in professional people who wants to do business and keep in touch with colleagues and potential customers.
In this article, we would be focusing on the main advantages of being part of a professional network and how this type of network can help your career.
2 Main Advantages
A professional network offers a lot of advantages to all the people who are part of it and now you can find several sites in the Internet that work as tools, allowing professionals to create their networks easily.
Some of the main advantages and features these sites offer are explained as follow.
2.1 Keep in touch
The biggest advantage of a professional network site is that users can easily keep in touch with friends, colleagues or partners.
Keep in touch with all the people you have known along your career is sometimes impossible, addresses and phone numbers change. Lost contact is sometimes inevitable, so having a site that gives you the ability to connect with those you lost contact over time is just a great advantage.
On the other hand, you can keep your contact list in one place, knowing that it always will be up-to-date, since each contact information is updated by the actual contact letting you have reliable information almost all the time.
“Relationships are meaningful, in every aspect of life including career management. Networking is the key to discovery of our career selves and you never know, you might just make some friends and continue to find your path.” Katie Metcalfe (LinkedIn user)
2.2 Become visible
Publishing your profile, having it up-to-date with relevant information about your education, experience and skills will make you visible to your network. Colleagues, classmates and partners will be able to reconnect with you and people that don’t know you will be able to get to know you better and even get interested in what you have to offer.
Having a well-built profile will allow you to get job offers and business opportunities allowing you to grow your network and your business.
Your profile will help you to promote yourself, to market your experience and brand your business.
2.3 Contact potential customers
If you own a business with services to offer, you can use your network to promote your services and find potential customers.
In a professional network site you can contact potential customers directly or by getting recommended by your actual customers or partners, getting a lot of benefits from something as easy as that.
“I have always been taught when selling to try to find common ground with potential customer. Haveing a business network in common can be a big help.” Louis D'Esposito (LinkedIn user)
2.4 Share ideas
Most of these sites offer features that allow their users to share ideas or things that other people might find interesting.
Some have forums, blogs or question and answers modules promoting the transfer of knowledge. These features allow their users to contact people who are experts in certain areas or even become experts themselves by sharing their answers and knowledge with others, winning recognition for their expertise.
“The knowledge that is freely shared both on the site and between connections off site is priceless. We can reach out to an almost unlimited number of great minds and share ideas, solve problems and do business.” Sheilah Etheridge (LinkedIn user)
When professionals publish their articles or answer questions related to their fields, they are demonstrating that they have experience and expertise in a certain area, allowing others to get to know them and even maybe becoming a “go to guy” in that specific area creating a lot of opportunities for themselves and why not?, helping others with their knowledge.
2.5 Connect with international professionals
“To me, the biggest advantage is making international contacts that I otherwise wouldn't make. I appreciate the diverse insights and perspectives, and who knows how these contacts might pay off in the future? In business and in networking, there's rarely such a thing as incidental contact. Relationships are meaningful.” Tom Field (LinkedIn user)
Since these sites are based on the Internet, they are accessible to everybody in the world, creating a network of a big number of users that you have access to. This gives the advantage that one user can easily connect to another no matter if the other user lives in a country in the other side of the world. Also, it allows getting different experiences from different professionals around the globe.
Some of the professional networking sites offer the possibility of managing recommendations; users can give recommendations to their connections or get recommended.
This type of features gives the user the chance to help others by giving their recommendations, which can be accounted on looking for a new job, a new business partner or a potential customer since recommendations add more completion and credibility to your profile.
2.7 Hiring people
Since users of professional networking sites manage a public profile where they describe their education, experience and skills, recruiters can use these sites to look for potential candidates for the job positions they are offering.
The good thing is that these recruiters can use the site to contact these potential candidates directly or through their connections. In addition to this, since these sites are used by a lot of people around the world, recruiters have access to a bigger number of potential candidates.
Besides, if the users have a completed profile, just by reading their profiles, recruiters can get to know their potential candidates before even contact them, sometimes saving time in phone calls and emails.
2.8 Finding a job
Some professional networking sites offer the opportunity for companies to promote their business and to public their job openings allowing professionals to apply to these jobs directly in the site.
Having a completed profile and several recommendations will give the professional more chances to be selected for a job. You could be contacted directly by the recruiter; you might have been recommended by someone or be discovered through your participation in forums or blogs. It is all a matter of how much effort you put when you publish your profile or how much advantage you take of the features the site offers.
2.9 Quality of business
This type of sites let you get leads on possible customers that are actually looking for a product or service that you could provide. Most of the time, these customers are referred by someone you know well, someone who is a mutual acquaintance of you and the prospect customer, which is something good for your business because it lets you save time in looking for new clients, spending less money in advertising and getting more profit since you are not investing resources in a prospect that is less probable would do business with you.
Professional networking sites are great tools to keep in touch with colleagues, clients and partners, since they offer a lot of advantages that make things easier inside a network. However the use you do of these features is completely up to you. You can be an active user that takes advantage of all features and make them work for you by branding yourself, promoting your business and getting recognized for your expertise or you can be a user with an active account that is never updated and therefore not visible inside the network.
Professional networking sites can create a lot of opportunities for you if you know how to take advantage of them. These opportunities can be used in the present or in the future, the bigger your network the bigger the number of opportunities you will have.
"Knowing the right people" is one of the keys to success in today's world, especially because you need to work with partners to grow your business more quickly, so being part of a well developed and broad professional network is more important than ever. Keeping a large number of "business friends" is critical for your career, therefore the importance of professional networking tools.
If you are an entrepreneur promoting your services or someone looking for a new job, these tools can really help you achieve your goals, but it is always up to you.