In the HR profession, having a broad professional network is a huge asset to your career.
The people in your network are often key to accessing new job openings, keeping you informed of the latest industry trends and introducing you to mentors and other professional development opportunities.
Building a network can be a struggle if you don’t know where to start, so here are 6 tried and tested ways to naturally grow your HR network.
Go to HR conferences
If you’re looking for an easy way to meet loads of new people, get yourself to an HR conference! Attending a conference gives you access to a huge number of professionals all under one roof and ready to mingle and chat with people like you.
If you consider yourself a confident and outgoing person, you’ll flourish in this situation as you’ll be likely to try to talk to as many people as you possibly can in the one day!
However, you shouldn’t panic if you’re daunted by approaching strangers; you can still network in smaller groups at these busy events. Start with talking to one or two people in the more intimate and relaxed setting of the workshops and seminars. You’ll find this much easier, and once you build up a bit of confidence, you’ll be ready to strike up a conversation in the busier areas.
HR professionals are a friendly bunch who are always keen to share their experiences and expertise with each other, so we’re sure you’ll make some valuable connections.
We’d definitely recommend hitting up the big CIPD conferences like the Festival of Work in June and the Annual Conference & Exhibition in November, as CIPD events are always well-attended and offer a huge range of opportunities to network.
If you’re looking for something a little bit different, check out the Natural HR Conference which is being co-facilitated by former ICS Learn student and HR blogger Natalie Ellis. Its aim is to put the ‘human’ back in Human Resources - and it's held at a monkey sanctuary!
Contribute to Twitter Chats
Twitter has become an increasingly popular place for HR professionals from all around the world to connect and share their experience. This popularity has given rise to lively Twitter chats like #HRHour, #LDInsight and #LDNights.
These typically last between half an hour and an hour and will often consist of 1-3 questions on different topics each week. Participants are invited to share their thoughts, opinions and experiences in answer to these questions, so it’s a great place to pick up insider knowledge.
Monitoring these chats will give you a good idea of influential HR people to follow but remember to join in too. The key to expanding your HR network is to form strong connections with other professionals so be sure to contribute to discussions using the relevant hashtag to get yourself noticed.
Join a LinkedIn group
We couldn’t possibly write a piece about networking without giving a mention to the largest online networking platform out there.
In a similar way to Twitter chats, LinkedIn groups give you the chance to interact and share experiences with other like-minded HR professionals but in a more private setting.
These groups allow you to benefit from other members' knowledge and build up confidence by putting forward your own thoughts and opinions. You can also send direct messages to other members of the group, so you can chat with them before asking them to connect with you.
We’ve recently launched our own LinkedIn group, HR Voices with ICS Learn, where you can network with other HR enthusiasts, get career advice and keep up-to-date with the latest HR goings-on. We’d love to hear your thoughts on all things HR-related - come join us!
Use the CIPD Branch Network
Your CIPD membership allows you to join your local branch network and we’d highly recommend sparing some time to get involved.
Local branches put on a wide range of events designed to develop members' knowledge and skills and grow their networks. Attending these events is a great way to meet people.
Even better than attending events is volunteering to help organise them. By volunteering, you’ll not only add enthusiastic local HR professionals to your network, but you’ll also develop new organisational skills and gain valuable experience.
You can also join CIPD’s mentoring programme where you can apply to be either mentor or mentee depending on which stage of your career you’re at. This is a fantastic opportunity for all parties as junior professionals can get the support and guidance they need, whilst more senior professional can develop their coaching skills.
If you haven’t yet reached out to your local branch, you can find out how to get involved here.
Attend dedicated HR events
Large events like the conferences we talked about before are great, but they can be a bit overwhelming. Even the most confident of people can find them a bit of a whirlwind as you can end up speaking to so many other people!
Smaller HR events are perfect if you need a change from large conferences as they offer the chance to meet new people in a more informal environment.
These events are often workshops focused on one specific topic and might only last a few hours, meaning they're perfect for after-work socialising or a half-day away from out of the office.
Plus, at many workshops, you’ll get to work closely with your fellow attendees, giving you a better chance of making a meaningful connection.
Network Through Professional Development
Studying a professional CIPD qualification can be a great way to expand your professional network.
If you’re studying a course that’s taught in a classroom, you’ll no doubt get to know your classmates and may even want to keep in touch with them once the course is over. However, if you’ve opted to study an online course, don’t worry that you’ll be isolated - many online CIPD courses (like ours!) have lively online forums designed to let students connect and interact.
You might think that interacting with other students online won’t be the same as in the classroom, but online student forums can be places of lively discussion with lots of support on offer any time you need help.
Once you’ve finished your studies you can keep your new online network alive by inviting your connections to join a LinkedIn group you find interesting, or even create a Facebook group to carry on your discussions when you can no longer access the student forum.
The main thing to remember is that whilst you do need to put some work into expanding your network, you shouldn’t try to force it.
Let people get back to you in their own time and don’t take it to heart if you don’t click with absolutely everyone you meet - as with romantic relationships, sometimes it’s just not meant to be, but that shouldn’t put you off trying again!
Interested in taking your HR career further? Find out more about our 100% online CIPD qualifications.