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5 Types of Professional Networks and How to Use Them

Updated: May 19, 2021

To boost your job search prospects, make networking a priority. As you work your contacts, it can be helpful to prioritize your lists, moving from one big network to a divide-and-conquer approach that may be more useful in helping you land a great flexible job.

What’s the best way to set networking priorities? It’s helpful to understand the overall types of professional networks, as described in a Forbes article on obtaining wealth, and how those networks might work for you in your job search.

Here are two major types of professional networks:


According to the Forbes article, an expansive network is a broad umbrella group of contacts. These can be present and former colleagues and industry contacts who can either speak specifically to your work experience and accomplishments, or offer a broader personal endorsement of you as a potential hire.

In your job search, your expansive network may also include people who can connect you with potential jobs opportunities. The group may include family members or friends who can help you steer your job search in the right direction.


This type of professional network is also known as “street-smart networking,” which can mean understanding not only the types of contacts within your network, but what what people may be able to do for your career in a specific scenario. In other words, knowing who to contact when in your job search. The word “nodal” itself means the point in a system or network where different paths intersect or branch out.

Typically, a nodal network can be a more narrow subset of people, but also a more powerful group of “marquee” contacts who may wield influence in your industry, or with hiring managers and other leaders who make hiring decision. In your job search, take advantage of influencers in your “nodal network” who can speak to your talents, experience, and character.

Beyond these two types

Beyond these two types of professional networks, you can map out your network strategy even further by considering these three network subgroups described in a Harvard Business Review article on how leaders create and use networks. These subcategories overlap to some extent with the professional networks described above:

Operational networks: 

When it comes to your job search, people in your operational network may be in trade groups, professional organizations, or otherwise directly knowledgable or connected to the kind of work you do—or hope to do.

Strategic networks.

These are contacts who may not be in your career field or industry, but who may be thought leaders and bigger-picture visionaries who can help you with longer-term career planning, or avenues that could lead to a big career change.

Personal networks. 

Fellow alumni, social media connections, and professional-focused meet-up organizations can fall into the personal network category.

It’s no secret that networking is one of the most time-worthy efforts of your job search. While investing in your network sources can lead you to new job opportunities, it’s important to understand the different types of professional networks, and how to make them work for you.

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