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Building your Professional Network

Updated: Nov 4, 2022

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Having a strong professional network has always been important, but in the digital age, it's becoming even more important to connect. Your professional network is a source of collaboration, opportunities, feedback, resources and much more throughout your career. 

LinkedIn is a powerful tool. It's where companies come to find top talent, and where job seekers go to land their dream roles. But building a strong professional network takes time and dedication. With our help, we'll build you a strategically tailored network that will help you succeed.

In this article, we will cover:

  1. What networking is, and why it's so important for your professional success.

  2. Common networking mistakes and how to avoid them.

  3. Creating a networking strategy that will achieve your specific goals.

  4. How to find new connections.

  5. How and when to follow up.

  6. Publishing content on LinkedIn and staying front of mind.

  7. Expert assistance to optimise your LinkedIn Profile before you start putting yourself out there.

Let's dive in!

Why is Networking Important?

Networking is the art of making social contacts in your spheres of influence. It begins where you are and letting those closest to you know your interests and goals. As you communicate your vision and goals for gaining the job of your dreams, your social network of friends, family, and acquaintances become extra pairs of eyes and ears. They know people that may be interested in what you have to offer. Through the hundreds of social contacts you have, you are immediately in contact with hundreds and thousands of people in a short period of time.

To consistently grow and strengthen your network, aim to reach out to one new connection every day and share insightful content regularly.

Common Networking Mistakes

Like any social interaction, there are several common mistakes you'll want to avoid when networking. These include taking before giving, making assumptions, reaching too high, and being impatient with results.

Taking Before Giving

Start things out right by offering genuine value to new connections. Give other people a reason to pursue a relationship with you and prove that you are an asset.

Giving doesn't have to be a grand gesture - you can offer something simple. For example, provide a referral for a service or share advice in your area of expertise. The important thing to remember is that you need to give before you take.

Another important note when forming new connections is to keep the conversation positive. Avoid talking about the reason for leaving your last position or how long you have been unemployed. Don't discuss economic needs or the stress you are going through while you are looking for a job. The focus needs to be on communicating your vision and your decision to do something about it, particularly at the beginning of the relationship.

Making Assumptions

Assumptions are often incorrect, particularly in the early stages of getting to know someone. A common assumption is that people should automatically care about your needs and make an effort to help you. If you make this assumption, you're setting yourself up for disappointment and can even strain your relationship with your contacts.

You may ask your contacts for help, and they may or may not choose to help you. If you place expectations on people, however, you will only make them uncomfortable and alienate them.

Reaching Too High

Another common goal is reaching too high. Basically, this is making unachievable goals.

While it is a good idea to have networking goals, they need to be realistic. There are two ways people typically reach too high when networking. One goal is trying to expand the network too quickly. The other mistake is attempting to network with people at the top of the profession too soon.

Networking is long-term, and it requires realistic goals. For example, collecting the information of five contacts at an event is less likely than collecting the information of two contacts.

You're unlikely to connect with the CEO of a Fortune 500 company when you first begin. Networking is a long-term game, and the seeds you plant may take time and care to bear fruit. So be patient with the process and make networking a regular part of your routine.

Strategic Networking

To succeed in networking, you need a well-thought-out goal and strategy for making new connections and building your network. It’s not enough to just randomly connect with people in your recommended list. It all begins with defining the goal that you have for your professional network.

Some common networking goals to consider are:

  • Be recognised as a thought leader,

  • Connect with influencers in the industry, or

  • Collaborate with a mentor.

When creating your strategy, think about what you want your professional network to look like. Define your goals for building your network, and take into account the next steps you want to take in your career. Then, decide what feels right in terms of making connections to support this.

Finding Connections

Now that you have a clear strategy for your professional network, you can begin searching for relevant connections. Here's some great ways to get started:

  • Utilise your existing network to provide introductions. Warm referrals are a great way to get new professional relationships started in a positive way. Ask your existing network who they can introduce you to in alignment with your goals of specific role title and/or industry.

  • Research Companies on their Website and LinkedIn Pages. Browsing the Meet The Team page of relevant companies is a great way to identify people you may want to connect with in a specific industry.

  • Go where relevant people are meeting in groups. Attend industry events, networking meet-ups, relevant workshops to find people with similar interests or skills.

  • Find opportunities to present. What are you an expert on? Finding opportunities to speak or contribute to presentations on topics you're an expert on is a great way to get in front of a larger group of relevant connections and build your network quickly.

  • Use the LinkedIn Alumni Tool. Search for people who attended the same schools as you. You'll likely to find that fellow alumni are often open to connecting because you share such an important part of your life journey. You can narrow your search for relevant people who are like-minded, or doing similar things as you.

  • Join LinkedIn Groups. These groups are trusted communities where professionals with shared interests can ask questions, share insights, and build meaningful connections. 

How and When to Follow Up

Whether in person or online, just meeting someone isn't enough. You need to follow up with some key messages to form a connection that lasts. However you meet initially, LinkedIn is a great platform to follow up.

The best time to send a LinkedIn connection request and/or follow up message is shortly after meeting or speaking with them. Whenever you receive a business card at a meeting, event or conference, make a note to connect and send them a follow up message within a few days.

Here's our recommended strategy for connecting and following up with new connections:

  1. Customise your Connection Request. When asking to connect, always provide a short personalised introduction, reminding them how you met and the reason for connecting.

  2. Have a great Introduction Message. Send a follow up message within 48 hours of connecting with someone. The conversation should mainly be around learning more about your new contact (eg: thanks for connecting, tell me more about your current role).

  3. Give before you take. In the next message, offer value to your new connection. Identify opportunities such as the type of projects or collaborations you can support your new contact with. Show your new contact how your connection can benefit both of you. In this message, it's often a good idea to have a call to action (eg: let's catch up for a virtual coffee next week).

  4. Follow up with a Reminder Message. If a message is left on read, don't take offence. We're all busy! Most people will take the opportunity to respond if they have a reminder. (eg: "Hi I’m just following up on my previous message…”)

Publishing Content on LinkedIn

One of the greatest benefits of LinkedIn is how quickly and efficiently you can create a powerful professional network. You can then publish useful and relevant content to build your sphere of influence and stay front of mind.

When it comes to creating and posting content, there are countless ways to do it authentically and effectively. Every industry is different and within every industry, every role is different. And you as an individual are completely unique! Use your unique skills, experience and creativity to design a content strategy that works for you. You can use words, which tell stories, you can share quotes or lessons, photography, graphics, audio, video, multimedia. The sky really is the limit! The most important thing is to choose a content strategy that feels right to you - one that you can stick to consistently.

Consistency really is the key here. The goal of social communication is to stay in regular touch with your network. By posting regularly, you will position yourself as a thought leader in your industry.

Make Networking a Habit

All types of professional networking are long term strategies. Meaningful relationships aren't formed overnight! A strong professional network is built carefully over time. Networking needs to be a regular habit in your weekly schedule.

It can be as simple as making one strategic connection each day, or posting one relevant article per week. Stick to it, and you'll steadily grow your professional network and sphere of influence in your industry.

Get Expert Assistance to Optimise your LinkedIn Profile

Does your LinkedIn Profile show you in the best possible light?

LinkedIn is the perfect platform to help you find new opportunities, collaborate with experts, and get valuable feedback. That's why it's so crucial to make the most of your profile. We'll help you create a strategic profile that showcases your skills while maximizing your visibility. Let's get started! Book your session now👇

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