How To Build A Professional Network
10 months ago

Have you just left school and are considering the first steps in your  career ? Or are you already completing an apprenticeship or working in an entry-level role? Whatever the case, building a professional network could open a lot of doors for you.

Networking involves making valuable connections and developing professional relationships with people in your chosen industry. It’s a great way to create work opportunities if you’re struggling to find employment—but how do you do it? 

Here are some top tips to help you network like a pro. 

Identify your target network 

Your target network refers to the person (or people) you want to connect with. 

For example, if you have a particular sector in mind, is there a specific area you’re most interested in, such as family law in the legal industry or the accounting aspect of finance? Is there a company you’d love to work for one day or a certain person in the industry that inspires you?

Whatever the case, identify who they are and how to contact them.

Attend networking events for professionals

A networking event is an organised meetup where industry experts, professionals, students, and school leavers can gather to build connections.

Networking events can give you the resources and connections to get your foot in the door in your chosen sector. You can find events by searching online, subscribing to industry newsletters, and following experts on social media.

There are a few different types of networking events you can attend. These include:

  • Professional industry events. These often feature industry leaders and experts as speakers. They’ll give you access to highly skilled, influential people and invaluable industry knowledge. That said, they do tend to be on the formal side, which might feel a bit daunting. 
  • Casual industry events. Casual events take place in more laid-back environments, such as restaurants or bars. While most of the conversations will be business-related, the informal environment invites personal conversations too. 
  • Webinars. Webinars take place via an online platform where speakers and participants can share knowledge, ask questions, and view presentations. 

Many professionals find online events more valuable to professional development than in-person ones. Webinars are considered to be the most valuable option at 81%, with virtual events coming in third at 59%. Only 29% value in-person networking events. 

For the introverts among us, that’s pretty reassuring news! 

Organise your own networking event

Once you’ve collected a few contacts, why not organise an event yourself? This allows you to continue building relationships with professionals while demonstrating your enthusiasm for the industry. You could host the event online or in person—it’s up to you.

Nervous about what to say? Here are some tips to help you navigate your first networking event:

  • Have conversation starters ready. Ask people what they do for work or what they think of the event.
  • Ask industry-related questions., For example, if there’s new order management system software that’s currently making waves in the retail sector due to its real-time automation capabilities, ask people their opinions on how these technologies will change the industry.
  • Be an active listener. This shows you’re engaged in the conversation. Take notes too.
  • Ask for contact details. Don’t forget to ask for an email address or social media handle so you can stay in touch. 

Ask for referrals

If you’re networking as an apprentice or entry-level worker, it’s perfectly acceptable to ask for client or customer referrals. This can encourage your new contacts to recommend you to others, potentially presenting you with lots of fresh opportunities.

To give yourself an advantage, work on refining your unique skills and knowledge of industry tools and communicate these to your referral prospects. 

Most clients will be looking for competency in using the tools of the trade, such as social media scheduling or task management platforms. So being able to use them will not only mean you’ll meet this criterion but that you are also more likely to have a grounding in industry tools and jargon. 

This will make you stand out, so hopefully, you’ll be the first person they think of if a relevant opportunity comes up.

Send out networking emails

To send a networking email, you first need to find the email address of the professional you want to connect with. You can usually discover these on company websites. 

To write the perfect networking email, you should: 

  • Be polite and professional.
  • Include a line or two of background information explaining who you are and how you found them.
  • Explain what motivated you to reach out (maybe they wrote an inspiring article on your favourite subject or are part of a company you’re interested in).
  • Ask for help or advice (but don’t forget to offer something in return). 
  • Provide your hours of availability and invite them to get in touch.

Create a social media presence

The networking power of social media is unmatched. You can build a professional network of people from all over the world, but to do so, you first need to create a social media presence on the right platforms.

Do some research to see where the people you want to connect with exist online. LinkedIn has long been a hotspot for professional networking, boasting over 63 million listed companies and more than 950 million members across 200 countries. 

Fancy doing a year abroad in the US, or exploring opportunities in Australia? LinkedIn can connect you with people who might be able to make that happen. 

Set up your own website

A personal website gives you the freedom to communicate your skills and experience in more depth. Even if you don’t have any on-the-job experience, there are still plenty of things you can include. 

Think about transferable skills that might apply to your preferred industry or that would be beneficial to businesses in general. Did you complete a marketing module as part of your business GCSE? Have you taken an online course in web development? What about volunteer work? These are all things you can expand upon on your website. 

This is also your opportunity to show your insights and opinions. You can write specific blog posts about the benefits of finance automation tools, such as accounts payable software small business solutions, or, write more general posts, e.g. about the future of remote work. Depending what you choose, you can demonstrate your passion and knowledge of the sector. 

Other essential areas you should include are:

  • An opening bio and an “About Me” section.
  • Contact info.
  • Examples of any projects you’re proud of.
  • Your experience and qualifications.
  • Your CV.
  • Social media links.

Final takeaway

Work experience, apprenticeships, and entry-level roles give you valuable, on-the-job experience. Building a network of professionals can help you access these opportunities and so many more. 

Just like all the relationships you build in life, networking takes a bit of patience and perseverance, but as long as you approach it with authenticity and a keen desire to learn, you can successfully build relationships that will shape your future career. Give it a try—we guarantee it’ll be worth it. 

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