7 Tips for Building Your Professional Network

Networking is crucial to cultivating a successful career— in fact, 85 percent of all jobs are filled through networking. As entrepreneur Porter Gale put it, “Your network is your net worth.” Having a strong network can help you distinguish your personal brand, connect with other professionals, exchange industry expertise, and more easily find a job.

Networking can be done with co-workers, friends, professors, advisors, and other professionals. Yet exchanging business cards and adding people on LinkedIn isn’t enough to cultivate your network. The best way to do this is through the relationships you establish with others.

While networking requires time, effort, and persistence, it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Here are seven networking tips to help you establish your career.

Comment on a New Achievement

If you see any news related to a connection, such as he or she was promoted or started a new job, then say congratulations. Do this on the social network you found the news, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter, or in a cordial email. Instead of an impersonal “Congrats,” acknowledge his or her achievement and note the value he or she brings to the role. This makes your note more personal and engaging.

Thank Your Contacts

If your contact recently said or did something to help you, such as contacting you with a job opening or offering guidance on how to ask for a raise, thank him or her for the support. However he or she inspired you, it’s best to relay thanks in a private LinkedIn message or via email. Note why his or her help was appreciated, and how it influenced you professionally.

Engage with Content

Keep in touch with your connections by sharing a piece of content they’d find useful, such as a blog post, industry white paper, or local networking event. In your note, tell them what made you think of them and why it could provide value to their career. You can also Like, tag others, and comment on articles your connections are sharing on social media. This networking tip is a great way to show your peers that you value their feedback while continuing to build your network.

Meet in Person

While social media and email can make it easy to touch base, connecting with someone in-person further helps maintain long-term relationships. In fact, according to a recent survey, 95 percent of employees say face-to-face meetings are essential for long-term business partnerships. Consider meeting a contact in person to touch base or discuss something specific, such as a project he or she might be able to help with.

Make sure to limit these invites, however. Your contacts lead busy lives, and their schedules might not always allow for in-person chats. If that’s the case, then start an email thread or conduct a phone or Skype chat.

Offer Your Guidance

Remember that networking isn’t just what other people can do for you, but what you can do for them. Offering your guidance helps you build strong relationships by showing your connections that you value them. You’ll also be one of the first people who come to mind when they can return the favor.

If someone asks for an informational interview or informal coffee chat, then say yes if your schedule allows it. The guidance you give your connections could help them take the next crucial step in their career, all while establishing you as an industry expert.

Communicate Regularly

Connecting with your network doesn’t have to be time-consuming. Reach out to your connections when it feels right, but make sure to touch base at least a few times each year. Remember to keep your messages authentic and concise to maintain a mutually beneficial relationship you both find value in.

Don’t be shy to ask for help. You are most successful at networking when you’re unafraid to ask for guidance, whether it’s much-needed advice, mentorship, or resources. As long as you maintain a strong relationship with your network, then asking for support is to be expected.

How to Reconnect With an Old Contact

Remember, it’s difficult to stay in touch with everyone in your network. If you have a contact you wish to reconnect with, then you should:

  • Mention the time lapse: Acknowledge how long it’s been since you last spoke
  • Get personal: State why you’re reaching out to them
  • Celebrate an achievement: Note if you found out a contact was promoted to another job, switched companies, or had another professional accomplishment
  • Share valuable content: If you read something that’s relevant to your contact, such as an industry-specific article, share it along with your message
  • Ask for their opinion: Ask for advice, and let them know you value their feedback
  • Get it on your calendar: Make plans to grab coffee, and give them an opportunity to get to know you again before asking for anything significant, such as a referral

Want even more tips to help you take the next step in your career? Check out our articles on “7 Must-Haves to Improve Your LinkedIn Profile” and “Tips for Building Your Personal Brand.”