Who are the people in your neighborhood? This is a good question that was raised by a theme song for a classic children’s television show. The song taught children about the importance of interacting with a variety of people each day.

A component of the interactions focused on the many professions that people in the neighborhood represented, and the need for children to understand what each person did at work.

Part of this process involved parents who reinforced the need to develop conversational skills with people within the community. What a simple concept for children to understand and practice!

Adults also need to know the people around them. There are many ways to accomplish this task. As working adults, we use networking as a term to identify how we build relationships with people in our professional neighborhood.

Networking provides the opportunity for professionals to learn about an organization or industry of interest. Networking also allows professionals to develop communication skills, self-confidence, and interpersonal interactions with people at varying levels within an organization to gain new skills or find a new job. A critical component of networking success includes leadership engagement.

Build an Effective Professional Network

Leaders provide insight on how to make progress at work and suggest steps that will construct a portfolio of information required to plan a career or simply learn new skills. While there are many articles on how to network, there are few that provide a framework for how leaders can help employees network.

Here are 5 ways that leaders can help team members build an effective professional neighborhood:

  • Understand the Importance of Building a Strong Internal and External Network

Leaders can better explain the steps to build a strong network when we understand the process. This is best accomplished when leaders build a solid business network with organizations across the company and within groups including industry associations or commerce groups.

Share tips on what you experienced as you developed a portfolio of contacts and describe a few hurdles he or she will need to overcome. For example, provide a summary of actions to successfully schedule an appointment with an extremely busy person.

  • Get to Know Your Team

Having an understanding of your team will provide knowledge about career aspirations and other areas of interest. This information can be used to determine the best networking activity. Also, get to know what hobbies that team members enjoy. Participation in hobbies or social interest groups provides a great way to build a professional network of resources. The more you know about your team members, the better prepared you will be to assist them.

  • Role-play to Help Team Members Build Confidence and Conversation Skills

Engage team members in role-play to help them get comfortable with the idea of talking to a complete stranger. People tend to be reluctant when interacting with strangers. To reduce anxiety, create scenarios that reflect possible interactions during a networking discussion.

Following the role-play, offer advice on steps to demonstrate effective communications. For example, simulate the process of a successful introduction and major points to mention within the first minute of the discussion.

  • Leverage Your Network to Assist Your Team

Leaders typically have a number of people within their network that are willing to help others. Resources from the your network can be used to help team members with career planning or provide additional contacts that may be used to learn about different industries or organizational functions. Professional networking sites provide a great opportunity to build a strong network. Encourage team members to utilize this resource to get to know people that are indirectly connected to contacts.

  • Follow Up

Set periodic check-ins with team members to determine progress. Of course, this shows that you care about your team! Follow up will include action plans discussed, progress the team member has made, and next steps.

You will want to observe significant milestones that your team member has made. Celebrate each success! Also discuss any challenges so that the team member may create new action plans. Be sure your team member keeps a journal or record of accomplishments and updates his or her contact list frequently.

There are many ways that leaders can assist team members with building a strong network. The above steps are just a few that leaders can take to help team members develop skills required to build a successful network of resources.

By helping your team members build a strong professional neighborhood, your team will be connected to a vast network of resources who can help build career visibility and connect with others.

How Do You Build a Network?

If you have ideas that you feel like sharing that might be helpful to readers, share them in the comments section below. Thanks!

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Florida Starks
Dr. Florida E. Starks is an Area Training Manager at Verizon. With more than 22 years in corporate higher education, her primary objective is managing new hire training, continuing education initiatives, employee on boarding, and enterprise change strategy.