5 Steps To Build Your Professional Network in 2021

Written by Vaishnavi Paudel

Retrieved from fyrst gen, 5 Steps To Build Your Professional Network in 2021

It’s no secret that building a network is one of the best tools that you can use to advance your career.

Since 70% of jobs aren’t publicly advertised, networking is a great way to find hidden job opportunities.

Most companies offer referral bonuses, so if you’re interested in interviewing for a role at a company, networking with current employees is a great way to get your foot in the door.

Even if you’re not actively looking for a job, building a professional network can help you connect with industry experts and gain valuable advice.

We know that networking works — but what exactly does it mean to build a robust network in the 21st century? And how can first generation college graduates and others starting out their career learn to network effectively?

Let’s break down five easy steps that you can take to build your own successful network.

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1.Use digital platforms to find relevant connections and events.

Once upon a time, networking meant attending a conference or event, and trying to engage a crowd of people wearing business attire trying to make small talk.

Luckily, networking rarely looks like this anymore. With the quick to remote work and learning in March, networking is now happening almost exclusively on social media sites and professional networking platforms like LinkedIn.

LinkedIn is a great place to learn about people’s entire educational and professional journeys. Start by polishing your LinkedIn profile, and connecting with individuals that you know or have worked with before.

If you haven’t already created a LinkedIn account, here’s a quick guide on how to set up a profile.

Once you’ve built your core network, branch out to identify a few people that you’re most interested in connecting with. Some of the most helpful people to reach out to are those who share professional interests with you, or have significant experience in your field.

As you reach out, be honest about your experience, interests, and motivations, and most people will respond positively.

Once you’ve identified a few people to connect with, do some research so that you’re aware of what they do and their professional journey up to this point. As you browse, jot down any questions you have or any topics that you’re interested in talking about.

As you approach those connections, be honest with yourself about your intentions to grow your network. That clarity will translate to those you’re connecting with and make more meaningful connections.

If you’re shy about reaching out to strangers you’ve never engaged with, there are still plenty of ways that you can build a network.

LinkedIn, Eventbrite, Clubhouse, and other platforms host professional networking events year round. Browse these sites using industry keywords and fill your calendar with regular networking events that you can attend at the comfort of your own home.

After these events, make sure to connect with individuals who were engaged. You can also connect with moderators of the event to seek out resources and potential job opportunities.

2. Reach out to meet them.

Once you’ve identified the people that you’re interested in connecting with, invite them for a conversation. If you’re using LinkedIn, you can keep the first message fairly short. If you have no prior connections to the person, a simple introduction and what you’re hoping to gain from the conversation will work.

Be sure to mention your specific interests and how they relate to the person that you’re connecting with.

Here’s an example:

“Hi [firstname]”,

I recently graduated from Amazing University, and am hoping to expand my network in [insert industry]. I’d like to connect with you and learn more about your professional journey.”

If you met someone through a networking event, make sure you mention this and explain why you decided to reach out afterwards.

It’s also helpful to reach out to any mutual connections that you have to make an introduction.

As you reach out, be honest about your experience, interests, and motivations, and most people will respond positively.

3. Find some time to talk.

After someone accepts your invitation to connect or if you have their email, ask them if they’re open to having a quick conversation. Many people are willing to give 30 minutes of their time, as long they understand what the impact of the conversation will be.

So when asking for someone’s time, make sure that you’re specific about what you want to talk about. It’ll also help them prepare any resources they might want to share with you.

While there isn’t a single formula to making effective professional connections, the most important thing to do is to just start.

Even if the conversation only lasts fifteen minutes, it will help solidify that person as part of your network, and help them put a face and personality to who you are.

Networking is a two-way street, so it’s possible that these connections with might ask for your help in the future. At the end of the day, most people are willing to help you out because it comes at no cost.

4. Make a good impression.

After you set up time with someone, be sure to confirm the settled date and time with your connection 12 hours or so before it’s time to talk. Before the conversation starts, prepare a few questions to ask them.

If you’re connecting with someone to learn more about them and gain inspiration from their professional journey, here’s a few questions you may ask:

  • How did you figure out this is the field you want to be in?

  • What was the most impactful moment in your career?

  • What does a successful day look like for you?

If you’re connecting with someone because you’re  searching for a job and want to gain insight on the company, some appropriate questions might be:

  • What do you enjoy most about your role?

  • What’s the hardest part of your job?

  • How satisfied are you with your salary?

  • Do you feel like you have room to grow at this organization?

Of course, make sure you leave room for the conversation to flow, and for them to ask you questions as well.

5. Send a follow up.

Treat your connections the same way that you would treat anyone else that you have a relationship with. Make sure that you express gratitude for the time and energy they set aside for you, and to you send updates on your previous conversation.

Networking is not a one-and-done deal — the most effective way to build an impactful network is by keeping in touch with your connections over time.

While there isn’t a single formula to making effective professional connections, the most important thing to do is to just start.

By Rachel Amezcua
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