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The AIU blog shares ideas, information and tips aimed at helping you get ahead personally and professionally, with topics ranging from online learning success to career development.

The Obvious Networking Opportunity You’re Passing Up

Image: The Obvious Networking Opportunity You’re Passing Up - Family

Separating your work life and your personal life is normal, even healthy. But when it comes to building a strong network, you could be missing out on making some important connections.

“The one thing I tell job seekers is to look at your own friends and family,” said Eric Hellige, Manager of Career Services at CareerBuilder, at AIU’s recent Serious Talk Webinar, “5 Strategies to Advance Your Career.”

“A lot of people don’t think of your parents, your cousins, your aunt, your uncle, your neighbors, people you go to church with because they don’t work in the same industry as you do,” he said. “They can be very valuable in your network.”

Yet many professionals have concerns about mixing personal and professional circles for fears of social repercussions. What if things don’t pan out? Here are some important ground rules to keep in mind when networking with friends and family:

Make a good impression: Making a good impression is absolutely critical to strengthening any professional network, but it’s especially important when someone else has vouched for you. What you do and say reflects not only on you, but also on a contact who has recommended you. Live up to your side of the bargain in every possible way by being prepared, arriving on time, acting professionally and doing everything you can to represent your contact in the best light.

Be reasonable: In the midst of your career search you realize that a relative works for a company where you have applied. Before you ask a friend or a family member to recommend you, make sure that you have the qualifications for the job and that what you are asking is reasonable. If your personal contact doesn’t feel comfortable making an introduction, don’t get upset and strike him or her from your holiday card list. If you do make a connection and it doesn’t work out, don’t hold your friend or relative responsible. There might be an opportunity later on down the road.

Related: The Networking Tool You May Be Overlooking

Maintain some boundaries: Social or family gatherings can create an ideal opening for connecting professionally with people in your private life. Ask about their professional life and talk about yours, but don’t monopolize weekend time with work talk. Instead, look for opportunities where you can circle back or make plans to reconnect later. If you do find yourself in a professional setting with a friend or family member, be professional. Don’t make too much of your social ties in mixed company. A healthy respect for professional boundaries can go a long way toward growing your professional and personal relationship.

Return the favor: It’s natural to expect more from the people we know and love, but that doesn’t mean that you are entitled to special favors. It’s also important to remember that fostering a relationship, whether it’s personal or professional, requires give and take.

Grow Your Relationship: Many people don’t have time for networking — until we need something like a new job, a new career or sales contacts. Now that you’ve connected professionally with someone from your personal life, don’t just drop out of sight after getting the introduction.

Invite your contact to events, offer your help, introduce him or her to your network and check in occasionally. You’d be surprised how your efforts might pay off professionally and personally.

Interested in more posts on networking and relating topics? Check out our Career Development blog.

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