Principles for Expanding Your Professional Network When You Are Blind or Visually Impaired

Whether you are employed or are in the job-seeking process, I hope you’ve come to recognize the benefits of a strong social network. I mean, really, who doesn’t want to be a member of a mutually-supportive community?

But how do you expand your community? How do you go from knowing a few people to having a thriving social network?

To expand your social network, you must take initiative. You must actively engage others. Though it may feel awkward and nerve-wracking for quite some time, depending on your personality, you must reach out to others.

Consider this: You attend a one-day workshop in your career field or desired career field. You arrive two minutes before the program begins, sit at an empty table, soak in the information, eat your packed lunch, and dart out as soon as the workshop concludes. Maybe that’s how you’re most comfortable. I get it.

Take the same workshop and this time you arrive twenty minutes before the program begins. You listen for where others are congregating and you introduce yourself. You sit with your new acquaintances, you choose to be warm and friendly, you suggest the group walk down the street to grab lunch together, you chat during breaks in order to get to know a few people better, you exchange contact information, and maybe you even stick around a few minutes after the program concludes to engage in further conversation. Depending on your personality, that may have been extremely uncomfortable. Again, I get it. But, in this scenario, your initiative just expanded your social network.

And who knows who you just met! A new friend, mentor, mentee, new client, future coworker, an inspiration, or a brainstorming-buddy.

Here are 3 principles for expanding your social network through engaging others:

  1. Don’t miss opportunities. If you’re invited to lunch or elsewhere and can make it work, go build relationships! If you turn it down, it may be the only invite you receive by this individual or group.
  2. Look for opportunities. Seek professional organizations, workshops, conferences, or courses in your career field and go meet people!
  3. Create opportunities to foster relationships. Invite people you know to appropriate activities they would likely enjoy. Another idea for creating opportunities is placing a candy dish on your desk… you may just get a lot more visitors!

So get out there, don’t limit yourself by your comfort zone, and make contacts. Before you go, refresh your social skills by reading APH CareerConnect’s Communicating on the Job article.

Learn More About Your Social Network

What Networking Isn’t… for Individuals Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired

Benefits of a Strong Social Network

Unlocking the Potential of Your Social Network