How To Build A Network When You Don't Have One
Professional networking is essential in building a career or finding a job. You can have the skills and the education, but without strong personal connections, it can be very difficult to grow in your career.
A lot of people have trouble with networking because they may be introverted or worry they are asking too much of people. Whether you're searching for your first job or are wanting to level up your career, having a strong professional network can go a long way. Your network can help you meet new people, make professional connections, and maybe even land a job or internship.
Don’t have a network yet? We’re here to help! Here are 9 ways to build and grow your professional network.
1. Focus on the right people
The secret to networking isn't necessarily attending a networking event and passing out as many business cards as you can. It's not meeting as many people as possible in hopes something will work out. Instead, try to concentrate on the people who you know will be able to make a difference in your career. Also, focus on learning their names.
2. Reach out to your network
You may not have realized it, but you already have a network! Your network can consist of anyone you’ve worked with in any capacity - bosses, coworkers, members of clubs you were on, teammates, coaches, and maybe even a few trusted educators. They can vouch for you, introduce you to new people, provide references for you when applying for jobs, and more. When you’re ready for your next opportunity, be sure to check in with your network to start your search.
3. Create win/win situations.
It's important that both you and the other party gain something when networking. If you benefit more than the other person, he or she might feel the relationship is not worth their time. The goal is to build a long-term relationship that's positive and professional for both people.
4. Create a LinkedIn profile
LinkedIn is a free professional networking website that can help you with your job search and achieve your career goals! When you create a LinkedIn profile, you can learn about companies that are hiring in your area and build your network by connecting with people in jobs and industries you are interested in. LinkedIn also offers free resources and training to help you gain new skills and level up in your career!
5. Become a connector.
You don't always have to gain something concrete in a networking relationship. If you can introduce people who can benefit from one another, it can be effective and meaningful. You can build a stronger rapport with multiple people, and you never know where it might lead.
6. Remember to reconnect.
Many of us have people contact us out of the blue after years of never touching base. When that happens, you may not want to go out of your way for them because they haven't put any effort into sustaining a relationship. After you choose the right people to network with, remember to stay in contact with them. People often appreciate follow-ups and quick check-ins more than you realize.
7. Join a group, club, or volunteer
One of the easiest ways to make new connections is to join a group or participate in a club - both in and outside of school. Not only will you learn new skills and find new passions that you can add to your resume, you’ll be able to meet new people, build new relationships, and expand your professional network.
8. Leave your comfort zone
While your friends and people who share similar interests to you can certainly be part of your network, every now and then it’s important to push yourself outside of your comfort zone to meet new people! To leave your comfort zone, expand your network, and learn something new, we recommend reaching out to someone on LinkedIn who has a job you’re interested in or works for a company you would like to learn more about. Ask if they would be willing to set up an informational interview to answer any questions you have about their job, company, or industry. Not only will informational interviews teach you about different careers and job paths, the person you conducted the interview with is now a part of your network! Ask them if you can connect with them via email or LinkedIn after the email to stay in touch after the interview.
9. Be consistent and be patient
Networks are not built overnight. It takes time to build professional relationships with people! Be consistent. You never know when you will need to reach out to your network for help, so keep in touch by reaching out a couple of times a year, even if it’s just to say hello.