Building a Successful Professional Network

December 14, 2018

People shaking hands at networking event.

Whether you are a seasoned expert or just starting out, building a successful professional network allows you to advance your career, find inspiration, encourage mentorship, and explore new career opportunities. In today’s competitive work environment, who you know can be just as important as what you know. In fact, a recent report from Payscale.com shows that as much as 85% of all jobs are filled via networking.1 Knowing how to develop an effective professional network can be one of the most important factors towards achieving your professional goals.

Diversify your Networking Activities

To build a great network takes a sound strategy and will require effort on your part. It isn’t as simple as just sending out thousands of friend requests on your favorite social media channel. You need a plan to connect with the right people in a meaningful way. In his article, The 1 Reason You Should Network at Every Opportunity, Damon Brown makes the point that, “being a good networker requires just as much strategy as your career itself because it actually directly affects your career.” Develop a plan to incorporate your existing professional contacts into your network. Think about your current position and reach out to your coworkers and supervisors. Connect with prior employers, supervisors and coworkers if you have maintained positive relationships with them. Once you get started, you can begin to diversify your network by reaching out to local organizations that you may already be active in or by joining new organizations. Some examples include:

  • Your chamber of commerce or other business groups
  • Industry associations
  • Schools, boards of education, or community events
  • Hobbies and professional interests
  • People you meet at professional conferences
  • Becoming active in your school’s alumni network

When it comes to joining community groups, your participation will be valued and this can be an excellent way to meet people from diverse backgrounds and industries.

People networking on phones and in person.

Get personal on LinkedIn

LinkedIn can be a great way of building relationships with new people you meet and people you have known for a long time. Over the years, LinkedIn has grown to become the largest professional social network in the world with more than 560 million users,2 allowing them to leverage their network to connect, share information and build their personal brand on a global scale. Research the groups you are in and seek out mentors or others who share your professional interests. You never know who will be the connection that helps you earn that next big promotion or new job opportunity. Wherever you choose to find new connections, remember personalization is always appreciated when creating and nurturing meaningful connections. Take a moment to tell people how you found them and why you want to add them to your network. Be careful not to “ask” for anything other than the opportunity of connecting with them.

Tammy Borden of Weidert Group encourages you to keep a personal connection in mind in her article, 9 Best Ways to Grow Your Network on LinkedIn. Here are her top three tips on how to effectively leverage LinkedIn:

  • When reaching out to someone you want to connect with, personalize your note.
  • Follow up with people you have met at a work or event and mention where you met them.
  • Post or share articles often. When your network begins to like and share, their connections will see your posts. You may get requests to connect from your posts.

Another effective way to build connections with people is to find and follow influencers in your areas of interest and be active with comments when they post relevant material. See who else is active in the comments and reach out to them to connect directly. Remember, the key here is to stay engaged.

Join a Group

LinkedIn Groups are another valuable tool to meet and network with like-minded professionals. There are over two million groups on LinkedIn, including many active communities focused in niche areas. No matter your interests, there are probably several groups that you can find substantial value in. These groups provide a “shared space” where you can talk to other professionals about trends in your industry, stay connected with fellow alumni, come together to plan networking events, and discuss the many topics you care about." 3 Begin your search with broad topics like:

  • Training and development
  • Professional associations
  • Alumni groups
  • Local companies you’re interested in

Once you get started, LinkedIn will also recommend new groups for you to consider. When you join a group, “you're able to join like-minded members in conversations, find answers, and send a free message to a member if you want to reach out to them."4 When you have valuable and interesting information to share, the connections you will make in this manner will be authentic and meaningful. Just don’t overdo it here. You want to focus on the quality of your connections rather than the quantity.

Alumni connecting at networking event.

Connect with Alumni

For professional networking, your school and alumni groups are fantastic resources. Take a few minutes to look through your school’s alumni page. You can quickly see where your classmates live and work. Reach out to them and begin rebuilding those connections. Alumni groups can provide global connections, access to career services professionals, and keep you informed about in-person gatherings and social events that can keep your relationships moving forward. Research your alumni pages and look to make individual connections with:

  • Classmates
  • Professors
  • Faculty members
  • Alumni with similar interests to your own

See how easy it can be to learn about connecting with alumni at QU’s LinkedIn page. Here at Quinnipiac University, we offer a wide array of networking opportunities both on and off campus. We host numerous guest lecturers and speakers throughout the year and these events are an exceptional way to build your network.

One final word of advice is to be patient. It takes time to develop successful relationships and build trust throughout your network. You are an asset to the group as they are to you, and by being an active member opportunities will arise. Take the time to contribute to organizations, groups and your community, and you will see the return on your investment.



    References

    1. 1“How Many Jobs Are Found Through Networking?” Ecologist Salary, 12 Sept. 2017, www.payscale.com/career-news/2017/04/many-jobs-found-networking.
    2. 2Aslam, Salman . “Linkedin by the Numbers: Stats, Demographics and Fun Facts.” • Snapchat by the Numbers (2018): Stats, Demographics and Fun Facts, 6 Dec. 2018, www.omnicoreagency.com/linkedin-statistics/.
    3. 3Pattnaik, Mitali. “Unveiling a New LinkedIn Groups Experience: A Shared Space to Build Your Professional Communities.” Recent Posts, 10 Sept. 2018, blog.linkedin.com/2018/september/10/unveiling-a-new-linkedin-groups-experience-a-shared-space-to-build-community.
    4. 4“LinkedIn Help.” LinkedIn, Oct. 2018, www.linkedin.com/help/linkedin/answer/1164/linkedin-groups-membership-overview?lang=en.