5 Ways to Build Your Network from Scratch

Networking is key to creating job opportunities and growing your career potential.
But if you’re just starting, you’ve moved cities, or you have had a break from the workforce, you might not be sure where to begin to build an active network.

Try these simple tips to connect with the right people and start a new circle of professional relationships.

 

1. Start with who you know

Even if you’re starting from scratch, you’ll be surprised at how many contacts you already have. Sit down and make a list of all the people you can think of from your colleagues and clients to friends, neighbours and college professors. Think of what connections you might be able to make.

Start building your LinkedIn network with people you know, and it will gradually increase over time. Participate by liking and sharing posts and articles and follow industries, influencers, and organisations that interest you. Before you know it, you’ll find people are sending invitations to connect with you.

 

2. Commit to connect

Decide that one of your first goals is to do something positive every day to reach out and build your network. This can range from following up contacts from meetings, trade fairs or conferences, checking in with LinkedIn connections or old colleagues and clients.

Keep an eye out for professional courses and conferences where you can make new contacts.

 

3. Join your college or university alumni club

Most colleges have alumni clubs, often with national or international reach. Find out if there’s a chapter in your town and join in the various club activities. There is a range of events from professional speakers, to social or sporting. It’s a natural fit for networking, as you’re all starting with something in common.

 

4. Join an industry or professional group

Most industries have professional associations. Connect with your local group and find out what they have to offer. Chances are they will run learning and development opportunities, lunches and dinners, and maybe a directory.

 

5. Expand your social circle

If you’re new in town, you might be wanting to make new friends as well as professional connections. Join a book club or a sports team, or sign up to learn ceramics, or find a writing group. Check social media for expat groups who don’t just meet online, but often organize all sorts of social occasions. Making contacts will not only make you feel less lonely but can hook you into all kinds of local opportunities.

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Top 5 Tips for One-on-One Networking

Not all networking happens at events. Some of the most effective networking you can do happens over coffee meetings. One-on-one catch-ups, whether they’re in real life or virtual, give you a chance to connect without the distractions of being in a big crowd.

Here are five tips to make your one-on-one networking even more useful.

 

1. Have a point to the meeting

A networking meeting is more likely to be effective if it’s clear why it’s happening. Are you looking for a mentor or a new position? Has the person been recommended to you? Maybe you’re new in town and looking to connect with peers.

If it’s a get-to-know-you meeting, it’s okay to talk about common interests like books, movies, or sports.

 

2. Be strategic

Do your research and identify leaders that you want to connect with. Be clear about where you want to be in a year, five years’ time and seek out the people who can help you get there. Part of the point of networking is not just the people you meet, but the people they know who can help you grow your network.

If you have changed jobs, sectors, or towns, connecting with the right people can help you hit the ground running.

 

3. Make it mutually beneficial

A networking meeting isn’t just about what you can get out of the other person – there has to be some benefit for them too. Think about what you can offer. What are your unique skills or connections? Do you have acquaintances or experiences in common? Pay the other person the respect of doing some background research, so you know where they’re from, and what their career path and big projects have been.

 

4. Respect their time

Remember this person has made time for you in their day. Be respectful of that and keep to the agreed time (don’t be late!). Don’t hog the conversation, and make sure the meeting doesn’t go over time unless the other person is keen to keep talking. Give them your business card, but don’t hand over your resume unless it’s requested.

 

5. Remember your manners

Be polite during your meeting and remember to follow up within twenty-four hours with a brief email thanking them for taking time out to talk.

If you committed to sending an article or book reference, remember to follow up. You want this first meeting to set the tone for a future meaningful relationship. If it feels appropriate, you could connect on LinkedIn.