8 tips to start building a professional network

Last updated: May 29, 2024
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Vikki Sanchez
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8 tips to start building a professional network
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A professional network goes beyond the people you consider friends and family. Your network is made up of everyone you’re in contact with, including past work colleagues or people you’ve met online.

Building and maintaining a healthy network can go a long way in helping you get your dream job. But it can be intimidating, especially if you’re introverted or shy.

Let’s explore all the benefits of building a professional network, plus some tips to help you get started, even if you only have a small network of friends and family right now.

What is networking, and why is it so important?

Networking is the act of interacting with other people and exchanging contact information. The goal when you’re networking is to develop professional contacts with other people.

It can happen in a variety of ways. For example, there are events organized specifically for networking. These are known as ‘networking events.’ People who attend these events do so specifically to meet other people and grow their network.

But networking can happen in other settings, too. For instance, informal work events like BBQs or birthday lunches can be fun opportunities to mingle with coworkers you’ve never talked to before.

Job fairs are another valuable place to grow your network. You’ll usually meet representatives of companies that interest you at those events. You can use that opportunity to have a conversation, show interest in their work, and exchange contact information.

Finally, networking can happen online. Work communities like Jobcase allow you to exchange fresh ideas with others and form genuine connections.

But why is networking important in the first place? For starters, 31% of people looking for jobs find job listings via professional connections and referrals. 45% of people find opportunities through friends and family. Those opportunities would have been missed without professional connections.

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Of course, it’s possible to get a job without a strong network. Many people get hired by applying to a job posting they’ve found online on a platform like Jobcase. You don’t need to have a contact at a company to get hired there.

But there’s always a benefit to having more contacts in your network. When you apply for any job, you’ll be competing against candidates who may have relationships with people in that company. Those people may vouch for the candidates they know, which gives them an edge.

Networking can’t hurt your career growth as long as you’re polite with the people you meet. There are only upsides to doing it.

Benefits of networking

Here’s why you should consider growing your professional network sooner rather than later.

1. Access to more job opportunities

Knowing more people means that you’ll have more access to job opportunities. That in itself is a huge benefit of networking. Just imagine — every person you know also knows several other people. Every time you add a single person to your network, you open your horizons by a wide margin.

In that sense, a bigger network multiplies your chances of getting a referral exponentially. You never know when your specific set of skills and experience will be in demand for someone you know.

Keep in mind that not every contact will become a job opportunity. But people will be more likely to trust you if someone they know recommends you.

For instance, if you had to get a babysitter or a pet sitter, would you prefer hiring a stranger or going with the sitter your friend has trusted for the past five years? There’s a good chance you’d prefer hiring like-minded people that you know or that someone you know trusts.

2. Advance your career and get paid more

Networking can help you advance your career in new directions. Because you know more people, you’ll also become aware of more opportunities available in the direction you want to go.

Another benefit of networking is that it can also help you get paid more. Even if you’re happy with your current job, you should always have an ear out for other available offers. You never know what else could be out there.

3. Find a job you love

When you have more job opportunities due to a bigger network, it means you’re more likely to find a job you love. There’s a perfect job for everyone out there. It’s only a matter of finding the right opportunity.

If you have more than one opportunity lined up for job options, you’ll feel less pressured to stay in a job you don’t like. You’ll know you have the luxury of choice. Because of this, you can try out new careers that fit your personality. This is one of the key benefits of active networking.

On the other hand, avoiding networking can leave you isolated in your professional life. Fewer job opportunities mean that you have fewer options if something goes wrong with your current employment.

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4. Get a second chance

It can be difficult for people with a criminal record to find employment, especially after incarceration. Some companies like Starbucks are known for giving second chances to people who have felonies on their record. But other organizations may pull back on a job offer if something comes up on a background check.

Networking can help you get that second chance you deserve.

People will be more likely to trust you if they know you personally — or if someone they know gives you a referral. The more people you know, the better your chances are.

Without personal contacts, recruiters will only have your resume and your background check to judge your character. But if they work with someone who knows you, they’ll have a different point of view on your application. You’ll appear as a person, not just a name on a list of candidates.

8 tips to start networking

Want to start growing your professional network but don’t know where to start? Here are eight tips to make networking easier.

1. Have an elevator pitch ready

An elevator pitch is a short statement that’s designed to make a good first impression when you meet someone. It’s a summary of who you are, your background, and what skills you bring to the table.

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Without an elevator pitch, it can be easy to get overwhelmed when someone asks you, “So what do you do?”

To craft an elevator pitch, keep these tips in mind:

  • Brainstorm all the work experience you have, whether it’s from previous jobs, your current job, or other life experiences like clubs or volunteering. But cherry-pick from this list instead of telling someone your entire list of skills.

  • Think about what you’re passionate about. What skills do you have that are relevant to your passion? How does your passion tie into your ideal career?

  • Consider what drives you forward. Where do you see yourself in a year? Two years? Five? Ten?

  • Don’t script and memorize your elevator pitch. Instead, your elevator pitch should be a summary of ideas that you can comfortably whip out in a conversation.

If you’re not fully comfortable with your elevator pitch, practice with people you already know first. If you practice in an environment where you feel at ease, it will come easier to you when you’re in a more stressful environment.

2. Learn how to present yourself

Appearances matter to a certain extent. When you’re going out to meet new people, pay attention to how you present yourself.

This means you shouldn’t wear those holey jeans or a frumpy t-shirt if you’re expecting a networking opportunity to arise.

So how should you present yourself instead? It depends on the situation. If you’re going to a job fair, most people will be dressed casually but professionally. This is also known as business casual.

Pick neutral colors, fitted shirts, and slacks or simple skirts when going business casual. For men, a tie is optional. For women, jewelry is acceptable, as long as it’s tasteful and not overdone.

On the other hand, the dress code may be different if you’re going to a networking event. Some social events will specify a dress code. If it doesn’t, research online for past versions of the same event to see if any pictures are available. You’ll get to see what other people chose to wear.

If there’s nothing available, choose your attire based on the type of networking event. For example, a networking event for the foodservice industry will likely be more casual than an event for accounting professionals.

3. Follow up with people after networking events

Networking doesn’t end after you’ve met someone at work or at an event. It’s all about creating and nurturing professional relationships that last a long time.

Give your contact info to people you meet, and ask for their contact info in return. Follow up after an event so you can continue building those connections. This follow-up can be done via email or on social media.

For example, when you add someone on Jobcase, make sure to provide a personalized note so that they remember where they met you. This may even spark a conversation that deepens your connection with this person.

When you take the time to follow up, you’ll stand out from all the other people someone has met. You’ll be easier to remember.

4. Leverage your existing network

The best way to meet people is through people you already know. Even if your network of friends and family is small, they all know other people, too.

Some of those people have jobs. Those people know other people at work, too.

Say yes to opportunities to spend time with the people you know when they’re also seeing people you don’t know. You never know when a chance encounter could open doors for your professional life down the road.

5. Avoid asking people for a job

The best way to find job opportunities using your network isn’t to ask people directly for a job. That usually turns people off. People don’t like feeling like they’re being used by others.

Job opportunities will show up when you build genuine long-term relationships with people. They’ll be more likely to think of you when they hear about an opportunity if they know and like you. But if they remember you as that insistent person who keeps asking about jobs, they may not be inclined to want to help you out.

6. Ask questions and listen

Make sure you don’t take over conversations when you’re networking. It’s important to participate, but let other people speak, too.

Ask them questions, and show genuine interest in what they’re saying. In return, leave space for people to ask questions when you’re explaining something. Dialog is the best way to create a genuine professional connection with others.

7. Try asking for help

Finding ways to ask for advice is a great way to build a relationship with someone. It shows that you value their opinion.

Asking for help won’t make others perceive you as weak or unknowledgeable. Instead, they’ll see you as someone who has a desire to learn and improve. Plus, people love it when others value their input.

8. Clean up your online presence

Lots of job recruiters look at a candidate’s social media presence during the recruiting process. What you post online matters, especially if you’re actively growing your network. Social media has a huge impact on your job search.

Make sure you’re not sharing too many explicit details about alcohol or drug consumption. At the same time, update your job history to include social engagement and volunteer experience if you have any.

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Grow your network online

One of the easiest ways to start growing your network is to use an online platform designed specifically for that purpose.

Jobcase has an amazing online community to help you grow your network and give you some extra motivation during your job search. Create your free account to join the network today.



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