12 Types of Networking Connections
Connecting with other professionals during your career can provide many benefits. Networking is a process where professionals form relationships with one another, creating a stronger social and professional support group and helping job candidates find work. Understanding what a network connection is, why it’s important and what types of connections you can make can help you form better professional relationships. In this article, we explore networking connections and the role they play in professional development, with three categories and 12 types of connections you can make in the workplace.
What are networking connections?
Networking connections are any relationships you form with professionals inside or outside of your industry or specialization. Similar skills, job duties or employment histories typically connect people to each other. A network connection can be a close friend from work, a colleague or supervisor, an established industry expert or even a client you’ve done work for previously. Professionals typically form network connections to expand their skills and knowledge, learn about industry news or job opportunities and earn referrals for open positions. Networks can also act as accountability groups for industry practices or standards.
Why are networking connections important?
Networking connections are important because they help establish a group of people that professionals can communicate with about the industry, job opportunities and how to improve their skill set. A strong professional network can also help a professional develop credibility in their field and even earn referrals for better positions. For example, an attorney might build a strong professional network to find new clients and learn from established industry experts.
12 types of networking connections
Here are 12 types of networking connections, split into three different categories, that you might make during your career:
An operational network connection is a relationship you form with anyone who you work with directly or within the organization you work for that helps you fulfill your job duties. For example, an operational network connection might be your current supervisor, who you’ve worked with for five years. Here are four types of operational connections you can make:
1. Direct supervisors
Direct supervisors can be part of your operational network because you typically work with them every day and depend on them to complete your work. Consider any supervisors you feel you’ve established significant rapport with and who might refer your skills. Options can include hourly supervisors, managers or team coordinators.
You can also include colleagues in your operational network. Colleagues typically work together as a team to complete a task, so you likely depend on several colleagues to complete your work. Consider close colleagues you work with regularly who can advocate for your skills, teamwork and commitment to your job.
3. Interdepartmental connections
If you work with different departments daily, you can include any connections you make in your operational network. For example, you might depend on the marketing department to create a campaign for your new products. Consider anyone in other departments who knows your skill level and sees what you do daily.
Some companies might hire external consultants or use experienced internal experts as consultants on different projects. If working with a consultant is a crucial part of one or more projects, you can include the consultant as part of your operational network. They typically understand your skills and talents and the work you do for each project.
Strategic network connections are similar to operational connections in that they’re people you know that help you complete your job tasks. Strategic connections typically exist outside of the company or your direct control. For example, you might have a strategic connection with the building authority in town that gives permits to your construction company. Here are four strategic network examples:
Some companies might hire contractors to complete specific tasks or support their staff. For example, a company might hire a contractor to complete the welding on an industrial machinery project. Since you work alongside contractors but they operate outside of your company, you can include them in your strategic network.
2. Financial experts
Companies might hire or depend on financial experts like accountants, tax specialists or auditors to perform specific functions. For example, a bank might hire an auditor to help detect and prevent fraud. You can include any financial experts you work with regularly in your strategic network.
3. Government bodies or authorities
If you have connections with government officials or authorities, you can typically include them in your strategic network. For example, you might work as part of a company’s safety team, communicating regularly with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Your contact there can be part of your strategic network.
4. Licensing authorities
If your company depends on licensing authorities to perform certain actions, you can include any contacts within these organizations as part of your strategic network. For example, an engineering firm might depend on an external certification program to train their engineers and provide state licensing. Include anyone you interact with regularly.
Personal connections typically include people with who you have a personal connection, whether they’re in your industry or another industry. You may include coworkers in your personal network if they assist in your personal or professional development. For example, you might include someone you’ve worked with for 10 years and with who you’ve formed a close relationship. Here are four personal network examples:
You can include any personal mentors you work with regularly in your personal network. Typically, mentors are industry experts, family members or friends who provide guidance and advice for career or personal matters. Mentors can also help you improve specific skills and can advocate for your skill level.
Educators are anyone you studied under or who assisted in your education. For example, you might include a college professor in your personal network if you feel they impacted your studies positively. Educators can include anyone from high school and beyond.
You can include certain family members in your professional network if you feel they can advocate for your skills or provide referrals. For example, you might have a relative who works for a construction firm and you’re a construction manager looking for work. Familial connections are typically minimal but provide some benefits. It may be more professional to only include nonfamily members, so there’s no bias.
Friends can also comprise your personal network. Friends who work in the same industry or different industries typically understand who you are as a person and what your professional skills are. You can include any friends who you work closely with or who you’ve worked with previously.
Tips for making network connections
Here are some tips for making new network connections:
- Practice authenticity: Being authentic can be a great way to establish lasting connections with new people. Focus on being yourself and being honest about your skills and experience to establish trust.
- Connect digitally: Career websites and social media can provide opportunities to build larger professional networks by connecting in digital spaces. Consider connecting with people on these sites so you can showcase and manage your network from one location.
- Share knowledge: One of the most important reasons to form a professional network is to learn new skills or knowledge. Consider sharing your industry knowledge or specific skills to provide greater value for your connections.
- Engage with the community: A professional network comprises a community of people who typically host events, discussions or Q&A sessions. It’s important to engage with the community during such events to establish new connections and showcase your knowledge and skills.