10 Strategies for Building a Strong Professional Network
To help you build a strong professional network, we asked ten industry leaders, including CEOs and directors, to share their most effective strategies. From forming or joining industry-specific networking associations to prioritizing meaningful conversations, discover the strategies that have opened up opportunities for their career growth.
- Form or Join Industry-Specific Networking Associations
- Initiate Conversations with Industry Peers
- Volunteer for Industry Association Contributions
- Attend High-Level Events
- Build and Engage with the LinkedIn Community
- Create Mutual Benefits through Networking
- Offer Help to Expand Your Network
- Engage Actively in Industry Events
- Participate in Small, Focused Digital Events
- Prioritize Meaningful Conversations
Form or Join Industry-Specific Networking Associations
There are people just like you, looking to share best practices and learn from each other. This community becomes your greatest career superpower.
If there aren’t any that already exist in your area, start one! You’ll want to find a handful of industry peers and a couple of sponsors. It’s actually fairly easy to bootstrap in the beginning until you build up membership and some funds in the bank.
An example of this is the Midwest Contact Center Association, with chapters in Minneapolis and Chicago. It’s an organization of contact center leaders coming together for growth and learning opportunities. Building a network community for others is truly the best way to build one for yourself.
Director, Customer Service
Initiate Conversations with Industry Peers
I try to talk to people who do similar work that I do, even if I’m not totally sure what either of us will get out of the conversation. I try to worry less about any kind of short-term transaction, or the fear that they might say no to a conversation (we’re all programmed to worry about social inclusion!). If I see them doing something similar to me, or maybe with a slightly different approach, I reach out to see if they’d be open to talking.
Sometimes this is just a one-time conversation. And that’s okay. But I’ve also found some wonderfully rewarding professional relationships this way. Folks who have turned into real pillars of support, advocates for me (and me for them), and sources of key trends and perspectives I might be missing from my limited perspective.
Worry less about where a conversation might go. Just get it started!
Volunteer for Industry Association Contributions
Industry or professional associations can be a gold mine if you want rapid career growth. Years ago, I found out that my industry’s local association needed new content for their newsletter every month. So, I volunteered to write a post for them.
It was supposed to be a single article. But I spent a lot of time and research putting together a written solution to an enormous problem in the industry. The readers loved it. I ended up writing a series of posts.
The articles led to the association director asking me to speak at the monthly meeting.
Looking back, that was the launching point for a series of vast increases in my income and career growth. The industry was promoting me as an expert. And I had proof in writing that I was a problem solver in the industry. (Not to mention, after the speech, I got three job offers within a couple of months.)
So if you want to advance your career and build your network, be the industry expert.
Attend High-Level Events
One strategy I’ve found effective for building a professional network is attending high-level events. Yes, these events often cost money, but they are an excellent investment. They connect you with experts and potential partners in your field.
Sharing what you know at these events is key. When you talk about what you’re good at, people remember you. They’ll want to work with you or help you later on.
Using LinkedIn is also crucial. It’s more than just adding contacts. Comment on posts, share updates, and send messages. Be active and show genuine interest.
Studies prove that networking helps find better job opportunities and good recommendations. By being active in events and on LinkedIn, I’ve grown my network and opened doors for my career. Making strong, meaningful connections really moves your career up.
Build and Engage with the LinkedIn Community
LinkedIn isn’t just for finance bros, despite its stigma!
Building a community on LinkedIn has done wonders for our professional network and scope of opportunity. Don’t hesitate to send those connections and add a personal note where possible.
Avoid sending cold messages or leading with a sale when you send connections. Sending the connections is easy, but the nurturing sequence will take some time.
Posting at least once a week to LinkedIn is part of our strategy. Consistently posting valuable content allows you to establish yourself as a thought leader in your industry.
Engagement is another crucial element of our LinkedIn strategy. Keep in mind, everyone on LinkedIn can see the content that you engage with!
Staying active and relevant here is vital. Comment and contribute to the conversation on posts in relevant industries, react to posts, and share content that resonates with you!
Create Mutual Benefits through Networking
Effective networking starts with understanding what networking actually is. Most people think of what their professional network can get them. However, successful networkers know that networking is about creating mutual benefits.
I have always looked for ways I could support someone else first. Could I facilitate a much-needed new opportunity for them? Introduce them to a strategic partner? Give them a shout-out or endorsement to my community? By purposefully investing in supporting someone else, they naturally seek out opportunities to support me back.
That has led to speaking engagements, book endorsements, business support, and even getting selected as a TEDx speaker! Investing in others is the most important investment we can make!
Offer Help to Expand Your Network
I end most conversations with the same offer, and it’s always sincere. I say, “Outside of the topic we’ve been discussing, how can I be a resource for you? Is there someone I can introduce you to? A job post I can share? How can I help?”
That approach seems to disarm people and has been a powerful way for me to build my network. You have to be authentic, but that “how can I help?” sentiment makes all the difference.
Engage Actively in Industry Events
Building a robust professional network has been pivotal in the information technology arena. A 24-year journey, driven by strategic networking, has been experienced. Active engagement in industry conferences, tech summits, and online communities has cultivated relationships with fellow tech leaders and visionaries.
This network has fostered collaborative opportunities, facilitated knowledge exchange, and opened doors to strategic partnerships. Ultimately, this approach has propelled growth and fortified a position at the forefront of digital innovation.
Participate in Small, Focused Digital Events
One effective strategy I’ve used to build a strong professional network is participating in small, digital events and joining podcasts with a concrete agenda. Large conferences can be overwhelming, making it challenging to identify relevant connections. In contrast, smaller, focused gatherings like webinars or podcasts have proven much more productive.
This approach has significantly impacted my career as I lead a marketing agency. My network has become the primary source of our clients, which has been instrumental in our growth. Moreover, I receive invitations to participate in more events, leading to a self-perpetuating expansion of my network. Building relationships in smaller, purpose-driven settings has not only opened up opportunities but also nurtured valuable connections that continue to benefit my career.
Prioritize Meaningful Conversations
I have almost entirely said goodbye to large networking events. Small events, with 12 or fewer people, are my most important tool in network building. These are mostly in person, but occasionally online when there is an educational or entertainment component in the mix. The key thing is to have two to three meaningful conversations, stay in touch, and try to help one another.
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