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"It’s not what you know, it’s who you know."
We’ve all heard this phrase before. It’s a statement that gets thrown around a lot, especially in the business world.
In a recent poll on LinkedIn, we asked our followers what their professional New Year’s Resolution is for 2024, and networking came out on top. But many of us aren't taught how to properly build our network of connections with our peers.
So, we’ve crafted our top tips for building a strong professional network. Let’s dive right into it.
Networking can be one of the most powerful tools in your job search toolkit.
When done well, it can help you obtain leads, referrals, advice… the list goes on.
A mountain of research shows that professional networks lead to a number of benefits, including:
Before stepping into any networking event, it's a good idea to have a solid plan in place. Most people attending networking events are there to gain something, whether that’s exposure, job leads, referrals, exposure, or investments.
Having a well-defined roadmap ensures that your networking efforts are purposeful and align with your career or professional development objectives. It also enables you to communicate your goals effectively when engaging with new contacts.
Read more: Identifying Your Networking Goals
If you see networking solely beneficial for personal gain, then you're not seeing the bigger picture. Successful networking is about mutual growth: a collective sharing of knowledge, opportunities, and resources.
To create a win-win situation, you first need to grasp an understanding of the needs and goals of your networking partners. Ask insightful questions and listen attentively. The very best at networking build authentic connections by prioritising giving over taking. When people see you aren’t just in it for personal gain, they will be far more inclined to engage with you.
The rewards, when they come, could be ten-fold.
With LinkedIn built around relationships and connections, it’s the perfect place to expand your professional network.
The platform has a built-in search feature that allows you to find users based on their location, industry, and interests – so take advantage of it! You can also get involved in industry groups, jump on online forums, and attend virtual events to boost your networking game. As you build your online reputation, you not only enhance your personal brand but also make it easier to connect with like-minded people, potential employers, and collaborators.
Read more: How to Network on LinkedIn.
This one may seem an obvious tip, but it’s worth exploring all the while.
Meet-ups, seminars, workshops and networking meetings should be readily available in your area and discoverable via online searches. And they don’t all happen at conferences. Virtual networking events are gaining traction online and are usually free to attend.
When you make the effort to show up at events that matter in your field, you're not just building your knowledge of the industry you work in, you’re building connections and creating potential opportunities for yourself.
The networking process does not end when the career event is over.
Staying in touch with people you’ve met one of the most important parts of networking. If you nail this, you'll be in a great position to build lasting business relationships and enhance your credibility.
This could involve sending a follow-up email or a text after a text. By keeping the conversation going, it helps you solidify your relationship with that person. Turning those initial connections into ongoing communication is a great way to demonstrate your networking success.
This shouldn’t be a one off either! By staying in regular contact, you’ll position yourself for career opportunities further down the road. You never know when you may need to call upon your networking contacts.
Networking is not about approaching people with an agenda. Instead, approach it with a mindset of building meaningful relationships rather than focusing on personal gain.
So have a go at implementing these tips at the next event you head to or next time you go on LinkedIn – and get the most out of your networking!
Once your job search is over, it’s always a nice idea to thank the people that helped you along the way. Someday, you might be the one lending a hand to someone else!