Guide to Expand Your Professional Network

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Expanding Your Professional Network

It Matters and It's Fun

A strong network can help extend your employment opportunities and professional resources. Networking is a great way to learn about the industry, trends, job opportunities and spark new ideas. As you move forward, networking is a surefire way to give and receive referrals.

Who Should You Extend Your Network to?

The sky's the limit - but keep in mind who you want to become professionally. Your network can help propel your career in a positive direction, so think about who you’d want to have on your professional dream-team. If you are drawing a blank on where to start, remember your network should be built on your personal joys and values. Identify people whose passions and work interests you. If you are looking to extend your research as you network, target individuals within the industries, organizations and positions that interest you. 

Finally, variety is key! Having a network isn’t just about having potential referrals in your industry. It's also about creating new ideas and hearing a variety of perspectives on ways to approach your career. Most often, these perspectives will vary by age, field, demographic and company. Exposure to other areas of expertise may provide unexpected insight into how to approach your career. Anyone can provide value to your life, just as you can provide value to others.

Where to Network: Online and In-Person

For online networking, LinkedIn, GitHub, Quora, StackOverflow, Twitter, Hackathons and other online forums are popular spaces to build relationships. For example, you can connect with subject matter experts through GitHub and do reconnaissance through Twitter. For in-person networking, informational interviews, networking events, conferences, and volunteer events are all opportunities to meet people and add value. Informal settings are also an option. Extending your network doesn’t have to be planned - so when you’re at a social or work event, spark meaningful conversations.

5 Steps to Building a Better Network

1. Adopt a Giving Attitude

This is perhaps the most important rule for networking - be a giver, not a taker! Get to know those in your network and pay attention to their interests, not just your own. You may learn from their work in unexpected ways. Freely give referrals to others, help those in need, and share your connections. Good deeds will help you down the line. 

2. Be True to Yourself and Operate as a Free Agent

Don’t only network with people in an organization or industry: you should also focus on your passions, values, and personality traits. Similarly, don’t feel tied to or complacent in your current organization. Be open and optimistic about things outside your field of expertise. Build bonds on your own terms.

3. Establish a Constant Flow of Useful Information

Content is king. Establish interesting insights and connect with people you wouldn’t normally meet. Whether it is through keeping up with current industry events or meeting new people, a variety of knowledge can lead to new opportunities! 

4. Follow Up & Show Your Gratitude

Make the effort to send thank you notes, remember birthdays, share relevant articles and resources, and continually check in from time to time to maintain relationships. Make the effort to cultivate the relationship as time passes by sending emails or scheduling in-person meetings periodically to discuss interesting topics and projects.

5. Keep Building New Relationships

Develop the networking mindset and expand your network on a regular basis by making excuses to stay connected! As you extend your network, remember to link your contacts together to continue the trend.

Extending Your Network Workshop

For more in-depth information about Extending Your Network, check out a presentation of our workshop here. Hosted by Udacity’s Senior Front End Engineer, Scott Moss, and Senior Developer Advocate, Lukas Ruebbelke, the workshop will introduce you to their inspirational networking stories, tips for networking effectively, and answers to students’ questions!