Work/Life Balance: Tips for Building a Professional Network
Creating a work/life balance that prevents burnout might require you to embrace a non traditional tech career. Freelancing, or entrepreneurship, for example, can give you the flexibility you need to craft a satisfying career AND personal life.
These career paths aren’t as simple as accepting a big corporate job, however. When you strike out on your own, you become responsible for your clients, your projects, and your paycheck. That can be a daunting prospect.
The key to succeeding at these self-driven career choices is to build, and maintain, a professional network. With a broad base of contacts, it becomes easier to spread information about yourself and your services, earn customers and positive reviews, and access the resources you need along the way.
Ideally, you will build this network before you strike out on your own. But how do you develop a thriving professional network? Here are some tips and ideas to get you started.
Start with people you already know.
Creating a professional network doesn’t have to mean enduring painful meet ups with complete strangers. In fact, that is one of the least effective strategies for getting to know others in your field.
Instead, begin building your network with the people you already know. You may be surprised by how many people that is. Current coworkers and bosses, family and friends, old acquaintances from college, and your social media network can all be part of your professional network.
You can start by making a list of the people you know. Then, start reaching out to tell them that you are looking for new opportunities, clients, or advice for your new venture. You might be surprised at the opportunities and referrals you receive just from the network you already have.
Extend your network through your existing resources.
If you are going to build a thriving tech career that delivers the work/life balance you need, however, you will have to extend your professional network. Never fear, though. Your existing network can be the doorway to new connections. You just need to leverage it correctly. Consider taking the following steps:
- Reach out to your alma mater’s alumni services
- Ask friends, family, and colleagues for introductions
- Contact former colleagues and bosses
- Put out a request on social media for connections
- Email or call contacts for new connections
Stay engaged with your network.
Your professional network might be an important source of connections and referrals for your new tech career. However, don’t treat it like a vending machine. Instead, take the time to invest in and care for it if you want to see it grow and deliver the support you need.
In particular, stay engaged with your network. This means engaging in conversations, meet ups, and invitations with the people in your network on more than just a professional level. Don’t just reach out when you need something. Instead, engage in these activities if you want to nurture a thriving network:
- Have conversations over the phone, email, or social media.
- Like, comment on, or share contacts’ social media posts
- Invite contacts for meetups
- Alert contacts when you are in their area.
- Create standing invitations for when contacts are in your area.
- Talk about things other than your professional needs.
- Connect your network with resources
- Use your network to get help for others
- Ask industry related questions and get advice
When you regularly engage with your network and contribute to your contacts’ needs, you enjoy a more open, honest, and close relationship than you could have achieved otherwise.
Approach new contacts professionally.
Of course, growing your professional network will mean meeting with and forming relationships with new people. Often, these new connections will occur with the assistance of current members of your network.
These new connections are very important. Not only do they present new opportunities for your career, but how you handle them can impact your relationship with the person who made the connection for you.
As a result, approach new contacts professionally. Dress nicely. Engage in meaningful conversation. Listen carefully. Ask good questions. Be responsive. Present yourself in the best possible light to ensure that you successfully turn this connection into a valuable part of your professional network.
Indulge your hobbies.
You don’t just meet connections at conferences and through referrals. You can also make important connections doing things you love. As a result, take the time to pursue your hobbies and interests.
For example, volunteer at a local food pantry. Donate your tech services to a local organization. Play tennis. Join a running club. Find a way to connect with people over the activities that interest and refresh you. You never know what connections and opportunities will arise from genuine friendships forged over common interests.
A professional network can be a great boon when you are trying to forge a career that lends you work/life balance. Creating that network might require time and effort, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming, or boring.
Start with your current network, branch out, handle things professionally, and enjoy the benefits that come from strong connections. If you need help creating an online presence that puts your best foot forward to connections old and new, also reach out to Sequential Tech. We can help you create a beautiful, functional website where you can make and nurture even more professional connections.