Nowadays, a professional network is a must-have and a powerful asset if you want to move your career forward.
With the right people in your network, you might be able to climb the ladder faster or even get the job of your dreams. The reason is that most jobs never appear on any job board.
According to a Hubspot survey, about 85% of all jobs are filled through networking and personal connections instead of the job being advertised on a public job board.
A network can open many doors, but in order for that to happen, you need to build one.
In this article, you’ll discover what a network is and why it’s helpful to have one. You'll also learn how to build a professional network from scratch and how to grow it.
What is a professional network?
Typically, a professional network consists of people you have built relationships with — your so-called contacts or connections. You may have built these relationships due to similar interests, your current career field, or educational backgrounds.
While your first social network usually consists of family, friends, and classmates, a professional network is mostly career and business-oriented. One example is the Jobcase online community, where people like you help others with their work lives and career opportunities.
The main thing to look out for in a business network is that your interests are aligned. You can share beneficial career advice, help solve work-related problems, and expand your knowledge in your career field.
And, when you’re connected to one person, you’re actually connected to many because they have a whole network of contacts too:
How can a professional network help you with your career?
Networking done right can have a significant impact on your career. One of the benefits of networking is that it allows you to build mutually beneficial relationships and create more job opportunities for yourself.
Often, when searching for a job, a network can help you find one significantly faster.
While you might have the necessary skills and credentials, a connection to the company you’d like to work for is extremely helpful. If you ask someone to put in a good word for you at their company, you have a better chance of being invited to a job interview.
How to create a professional network from scratch
If you don’t have a professional network yet, we recommend starting as soon as possible. While it can be challenging at first, it’s absolutely possible and worth it to put in the work to establish a network.
Whether you just started your career, recently moved to a new city, or switched industries, below are a few tips on how to build your network from scratch.
1. Identify your passion
If you want to create a business network, you should first identify your passion. This is an important step because you’ll focus your career on what interests you the most.
For example, if you want to become a professional barista, look for people that share the same interest in making quality coffee and connect with them in person or through online networks and communities, like Jobcase.
2. Ask for introductions
While it may feel like you’re building your network from scratch, you likely already have connections that you can ask for help.
Don’t be afraid to reach out to friends, family, and former classmates to connect you with relevant people in your niche. Besides, the connection made through a mutual friend is often strong and long-lasting.
3. Be where your network is
While 40% of people say they network more online than in person, 68% prefer face-to-face networking. This shows that you can network both online and offline — just make sure that you are where your network is. Where do the people in your industry socialize? Are they spending more time in online job communities? Or do they tend to meet up in person more?
Once you know where to go, being social is a big plus and might help you make more connections faster. Using the previous example of a barista: attend meet-ups, chat with other baristas at local coffee shops, or visit coffee roasters. Always connect with people and businesses that complement you.
4. Attend a local networking event
Professional networking events are one of the best ways to form relevant business connections.
By attending one, you can meet like-minded people who share the same passion as you and who you wouldn’t be able to meet otherwise. Plus, you collect business cards from relevant people in your industry.
Such events are often held locally or in bigger cities. Also, look at your local Chamber of Commerce to see if they have an industry event in your area.
Make sure that when you introduce yourself at these events that you are professional but also friendly.
5. Create an online presence
Creating an online presence can help you build your professional network faster than meeting with people in person or going to networking events. Moreover, more people will use online networks to connect with like-minded people in the coming years.
Another benefit of creating an online presence is that people will also come to you. You can write blog articles, interact in Facebook groups, or create professional social media posts.
6. Give before you take
An important aspect of using your professional network to help you with your successful career is to give before you take. While everyone expects to be asked for help, adding value first can have a significant impact.
One way to do that is to tell your new contact about your skills and ask them if you can help them with anything. You can give them advice, connect them with someone else, or even serve as a reference for them at your company. Once you have helped them successfully, they’ll likely be eager to return the favor.
How to grow your network (and why that's important)
Once you’ve built a professional network from scratch, it’s time to maintain and expand it further. Networking is important because it can create more job opportunities for you.
There’s a simple formula: the bigger your network and the more relevant contacts you have, the more job leads that will come your way. This, in turn, can help you advance in your career much faster.
1. Follow up with interesting and like-minded people
An excellent way to grow your network is to follow up with interesting contacts. Remember to have an authentic interest in them instead of just using them to your advantage.
One example would be to send out additional information on one of the problems you talked about. That way, you can build rapport and deepen your connection.
2. Focus on the right people
To expand your professional network, you should make sure to focus on the right people. Once you have established a network, it can be easy to lose sight of relevant contacts.
Therefore, finding out who the right people for your current field are and who you want to stay connected with after making the initial contact can be tough. Sometimes you have already made meaningful connections that you haven’t considered or nourished in a while.
3. Use social networks (wisely)
Social networks are excellent tools for making new personal connections in your industry and growing your network. But only if you treat them wisely and with respect.
This includes having a professional and industry-relevant photo, a summary of your career goals, and details of your previous experience on your profiles.
Another benefit of social networks is finding professional contacts through your current contacts and joining groups that have the same interests as you.
4. Create win-win situations
Networking isn’t a one-way street. You and your contact should equally benefit from the established relationship. If one person benefits more than the other, that relationship will be over rather quickly.
Therefore, always make sure to create so-called win-win situations where you and your contact benefit from each other. If you help your contact out, they will happily return the favor.
5. Connect people in your network
When growing your current network, adding contacts and making more professional connections are often priorities. However, also consider connecting people within your network from time to time.
This is important because it can enhance and strengthen the long-term relationships you already have. Plus, helping people move forward will ultimately bring you forward long-term.
6. Leverage your network’s network
Another way to grow your existing network even further is by leveraging your network’s network. This follows basically the same principle of you being the connector.
However, this time, your contacts become the connectors. One way to do that is by creating meet-ups yourself, inviting your contacts, and asking them to bring people from your niche. Doing so can accelerate the growth of your business network significantly.
Time to build and grow your network
Now that you know how to create a professional network from scratch and how to grow it, it’s time to get started.
Take small steps and apply the tips you’ve read here. Get in touch with existing contacts or reach out to new people and introduce yourself!
One of the best places you can start is in an online job community. Check out the Jobcase community, where you can meet other job seekers, get advice on the application and interview process, and connect with like-minded people in your industry.