Professional networks are designed to encourage interactions with online communities with the focus of establishing business relations with other educators by sharing ideas and resources. Whether you consider yourself to be an active participant or not there are always a few tips to help you exercise best practice over your networks.

Expand your boundaries

Keep connecting with your local friends and colleagues. However, it can be just as beneficial to expand your horizons and establish relationships with people in different regions or industries as you never know when an opportunity could arise. Have a look at participating in some regional conferences or associations that will help you get connected to a variety of new people.

Find the industry experts

Try to seek out successful organisations where their values and culture align well with your own. Either join them or sign up for a newsletter to keep up to date with their activities as they may have an opening in the future. Also try to connect to authors, researchers, or public speakers who hold some esteem in their fields and follow them on social media to be updated on any of the latest news.

Separate your personal profile from your professional one

Ensure that you use separate accounts to distinguish between two independent parts of your life. Professional contacts may not be interested in hearing about the latest updates in your personal life and may be inclined to unfollow you if you ‘spam’ their feeds with irrelevant information. Without doubt, there may be a bit of overlap between your profiles but at the very least you will get to control what is and what isn’t seen.

Focus on collaboration

The very essence of what makes a professional network effective is the ability for individuals to use a give and take framework. One of the more effective ways to use this to post in the comments section of blogs and articles to share your opinion and if other people resonate with what you’re saying, then they may want to network to discuss ideas further. Any new information or resources that you acquire should be readily shared with your professional circles as they become available to you as this will help establish yourself as a thought leader.

On the other hand, here’s what you should not be doing:

Don’t spread yourself too thin

It only takes a little bit of effort to contribute to a forum or join a new group. This being said, don’t go joining every community or association you see as you won’t be able to keep up to date and effectively dissect information you receive from each source. Instead, focus on some of the core groups and work your way upwards from there.

Never post anything that you wouldn’t say in a professional environment

We’ve seen proof of this numerous times. Anything that goes up on the internet typically finds a way to stay up there and can come back to bite you one day if you are not careful. If you disagree with someone’s point in an online forum, instead of criticising their opinion, offer some constructive feedback as you never know who could be watching.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions to get answers

Professional networks are built to be collaborative environments. By simply existing passively in one you are missing out on several opportunities to build up your own network. Make sure you don’t ask questions for the sake of, but instead look for thoughtful answers that may not be able to be answered elsewhere on the internet.

Don’t forget the end goal

While you should enjoy connecting with new people while growing your professional network, it never hurts to keep an eye on the underlying purpose of your network. It is designed to help you learn and educate others, and establish yourself as a reputable member of your field.

Got any more professional tips to help develop your professional networking skills? Let us know!