Social networks can help unlock your career potential

Sponsored: Combining digital and real-world networking will help maximise your potential

Developing a personal network is as relevant as ever to unlock your career potential, and the tools you need to do this have changed.

Within the UK, there are over 20 million active users on LinkedIn – almost 60% of the student and working population. Unlike other social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram, LinkedIn has more commercial aims, focusing on connecting and developing professional relationships.

Since LinkedIn was acquired by Microsoft in 2016, it has transformed from a cold, quantitative database to a more social and interactive experience. London has benefited from LinkedIn’s developments and is now the most connected city on LinkedIn – a London-based user has, on average, 307 connections, the highest in its category.

For company secretarial professionals, not only does this offer quick and direct access to a personal network, it allows them to keep track of relevant upcoming events. Functionally, LinkedIn allows you to monitor what projects people are undertaking: a notification will appear when someone joins a new employer and such events can reopen dialogue as well as the exchange of ideas.

Alongside this, LinkedIn offers an opportunity for self-promotion which can support the development of a personal brand. Company secretaries posting articles outlining their thoughts on industry developments or potential challenges they have experienced can begin to advance a reputation as an influencer within this space.

It is important to supplement this activity with an up-to-date profile, outlining recent assignments, in order to affirm these articles with professional credentials. This typically takes the form of a condensed version of a CV, ideally with endorsements from connections and recommendations from colleagues, contributing to the creation of a wide-ranging and complete profile.

LinkedIn now includes video format within its platform – ranging from social media-friendly inspirational videos to more industry-focused promotional videos – and embracing this technological advancement can also be a useful tool.

In broader terms, networking has long been recognised as essential for personal development and it is not a 21st-century concept. In its most basic form, as LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman stated, ‘your network is the people who want to help you, and you want to help them, and that is really powerful.’

From the early stages of your career, when you need direction from a mentor figure to develop your technical skills or ask a peer for advice when formulating strategy for a department, we often require the help of individuals within our personal network.

Practical engagement with your personal network includes discussing upcoming industry issues, exchanging ideas on best practice or meeting future potential employers or employees outside of the formalised interview structure.

People can best develop a personal network which helps them get the most out of their career through various networking opportunities, including social media platforms and more traditional ‘real-world’ networking. The immediate source of your personal connections will be colleagues and ex-colleagues and former classmates, with whom you have the strongest relationships.

In order to create stronger connections, according to author Lewis Howes, ‘one of the most powerful networking practices is to provide immediate value to a new connection’. This could be sending over a relevant article via LinkedIn or also putting them in touch with someone in your network, if they are embarking upon a job hunt.

The next step for a company secretary is to become more active within CGIUKI. They frequently host events and have a busy calendar of networking evenings, round-table discussions and conferences to interact with peers. There are also more focused associations within the profession, such as the Association of Women Chartered Secretaries.

DMJ also host and support a wide range of events. We have upcoming Insight Days with some of our key clients in summer, to give aspiring company secretaries access to the departments and more senior events in which we partner with CGIUKI and other organisations. These events are primarily publicised through our LinkedIn page, so follow us if you are interested in attending.

Technology has changed dramatically, so have the tools for professionals to successfully network. The core concept is the same – building a personal network of individuals whose thoughts and experiences can help you to form your own career path, as you reciprocate assistance where relevant. LinkedIn now also offers a platform to help you register people you have met and instantly contact them when required.

The company secretarial profession is heavily people-orientated and over-reliance on social media is not a complete substitute for developing real-world relationships. By combining LinkedIn and real-world networking, company secretaries are able to forge strong connections to help them throughout their career.

Glenn Oborne is senior consultant at DMJ

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