“Build a network” is career advice offered to junior staff and seasoned professionals alike. We’re all taught that having a strong network can lead to new business opportunities and exciting career advancements. How to build a strong professional network is discussed less often. Guidance about how to enjoy building a professional network is even less available.

Research shared in the Harvard Business Review article “Learn to Love Networking” by Tiziana Casciaro, Francesca Gino and Maryam Kouchaki indicates that professionals who have a positive perspective about networking are more likely to have strong networks. It’s no surprise that those of us to who see networking as uncomfortable or intimidating are usually less successful at it.

The key, it seems, to approaching networking events with excitement rather than dread is to focus on how you can help others. Casciaro, Gino and Kouchaki further explain that when you focus on learning, collaborating and giving, networking becomes more authentic… and more fun!

In my own experience moving to the D.C. metro area from Indiana, I knew that building a professional network in my new city was something I “should” do, but it was not necessarily something I was excited about. As a remote worker, I didn’t have any built-in connections that often come with starting a job in a new city. Thankfully, I was already familiar with the American Marketing Association and so attending an AMADC Networker event seemed like the logical thing to do.

At my first AMADC event, I was able to recommend a technology tool to a fellow marketer, get connected to a volunteer coordinator and learn about the AMADC Mentor Program. With all of these connections, I began to feel more like I was among friends who happened to share one of my greatest passions (marketing) and I began to relax.

Whether you already have a strong professional network or are building one from scratch, it may be helpful to evaluate your perspective. Are you approaching networking as a chore? Or are you building authentic friendships with like-minded professionals? Are you just trying to find a way to get ahead? Or are you making valuable contributions to your field by investing in the marketers in your community?

A simple change in perspective may be the key to your success.

Jenna Strahm is a content marketer specializing in marketing operations. Connect with her on Twitter, @jenna_ps, or LinkedIn.


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