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Find out how to build a network from scratch

January 9, 2023 - 12 min read

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6 benefits of building a professional network

How does a person create an employment network?

Improve your networking skills

Building community

If only finding a new job was as simple as plugging your qualifications into LinkedIn and waiting for offers to roll in. 

Despite your wealth of focus and talent, the job search can be discouraging. It’s difficult enough to be chosen for that first interview. And by the end of 2022, job openings in the U.S. were holding steady at about 6.3% of the labor market.

And applying to open positions isn’t the only job search method. You can also send letters of interest to companies that catch your eye or reach out to your professional network. 

If you’re just starting your career or entering a new industry, you may need to build a network from scratch. This involves attending events, cold-connecting with industry professionals, and reaching out to previous colleagues — all of which can be intimidating. 

But even the best networkers had to start somewhere. We’ll discuss the basics of networking and provide tips on how to build your network. 

6 benefits of building a professional network

Whether you’re just starting out or hoping to shift your career to a more fulfilling path, social networking can be instrumental in establishing yourself. 

You’ve probably already started building a network without realizing it. New contacts don’t have to be strangers — anyone you’ve spent time with throughout your education and professional life can be a resource. Many people, even if they’re weak ties, would be happy to share information with you and, perhaps, collaborate.

Here are six benefits of building a professional network:

1. More opportunities

To act on opportunities, you must know about them. Maybe there’s a new job you’d be perfect for or a potential client for your business — your connections can let you know. 

You might not even have to ask. Sometimes coming across an opportunity is about being in the place at the right time.

Having professionals who already know what you offer in your corner is essential for increasing your opportunities. You’ll also use your position to help them when the time comes. 

2. A better understanding of the industry

It can feel pretty lonely when you’re new to an industry. Even if you’ve studied your field thoroughly in school, lacking real-world knowledge and up-to-date information feels daunting. This is especially true when building a network for a small business since there are so many facets to entrepreneurship. 

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If people in your industry make up your professional circles, a LinkedIn browse is all you need to catch industry-specific information. This’ll help you get a better sense of what’s trending and catch relevant job opportunities quicker. 

3. New career ideas

We struggle to see our own strengths, often fixating on our weaknesses. Sometimes it takes an outsider to pinpoint the right profession for us. If your network is wide, a contact might offer a role you’d never dreamed of taking, one that uses skills you weren’t prioritizing before. 

4. Enjoy others’ expertise

Many hands make a lighter load. If you need career advice, asking more than one person is helpful. Building a solid network of people you can ask also puts you in a position to help others better. If someone approaches you with a problem you can’t solve, you can use your social capital to connect them with the right individual.

5. Establish yourself in the industry

It’s good to put a face to your name because it makes both more memorable. If you’re out meeting people at formal and informal networking events, you’ll be on people’s minds when that dream position opens up. 

Think of networking as a forum for demonstrating your knowledge and personality. You’re more likely to develop a reputation as a valuable and pleasant addition to a team if people have seen you behaving this way in public.

6. Gain self-confidence

Networking can be a painful experience at first. It requires leaving your comfort zone and being vulnerable to strangers. But the more you network, the less intimidating it gets.

You’ll also learn that making social mistakes is common and won’t let the fear of making them hold you back. The world continues even if you stutter or hold a door open for too long. So put yourself out there, practice your social skills, and grow your network.

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How does a person create an employment network?

Building your professional network is no longer just about handing out business cards. Here are six tips for creating an employment network: 

1. Start small

You’ll find your most glowing recommendations from the people closest to you. Reach out to people you know have a favorable opinion of you, such as:

  • Family
  • Friends
  • Teachers
  • Colleagues
  • Managers

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Ask these individuals to consider open positions in their circles you might be right for. Tell them to keep you in mind in case something comes up. This will kick-start professional word-of-mouth recommendations.

2. Increase your circle

Once you’ve dipped your toes in by chatting with close contacts, start building more professional connections. Send letters of intent to recruiters from companies you’d love to work at, even if they don’t have a relevant open position. Make friends with professionals in the industry you hope to enter. Chat with that twice-removed cousin with the career you’d love to have. 

3. Use social media

Nowadays, networking via social platforms is unavoidable. Individuals and businesses use networks like LinkedIn to find and post jobs and to learn more about recruits.

Prepare yourself for digital connections by revamping your profiles to accentuate skills and qualifications relevant to your dream job. Spruce up your LinkedIn profile with a new professional headshot and update your status as “Open to Work.”

4. Follow, contact, and follow up

The best way to stick in people’s minds is to make several points of contact. This establishes your interest and keeps you in their mind. 

After following a new contact, message them to ask for a quick call or coffee chat. If they don’t respond, feel free to follow up with a brief message. We all scan emails and DMs and forget to reply, so don’t take the lack of response personally. 

When you meet someone in person, follow up with them online to cement the relationship and stay in touch.

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5. Attend networking events 

Attending social and professional events builds connections and keeps your name in people’s minds. Don’t hesitate to sign up when noticing a job fair, career conference, or college alumni networking event. Odds are you won’t have to leave the comfort of your own home, as these things occur virtually. 

These events are always more fun if you’re interested in the topic. Nerd out with other individuals interested in your area of expertise. It may take a few weekends before you hit your stride, but you’ll slowly build your community of like-minded professionals.

6. Give something back

Healthy relationships require some give and take. If you’re hoping to get first dibs on a position your friend knows about, express what you have to offer. Jobs should always be given to the best candidate. Prove that you’ll provide something valuable to the companies you’re reaching out to. 

Another great way to demonstrate your value to an organization or a new connection is to ask how you can help. It doesn’t have to be free labor, but a small act of service (like advice or an introduction) can help build rapport

Improve your networking skills

Meeting new people is scary because it feels like a significant emotional risk. Even though the stakes are often minimal, we still fear embarrassing ourselves or being turned down.

But you don’t have to be the most charming person to build a great professional network. Most people who are serious about their success prefer genuineness. Try practicing these skills to express your genuine character: 

  • Active listening: Make sure your body language and questions convey you’re actively paying attention.
  • Positivity: Providing an optimistic take on an issue is a great way to comfort your audience and show you care.

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  • Humor: Making people laugh is a surefire way to build stronger, more meaningful connections. 
  • Public speaking: Practice articulation and succinctness to avoid misunderstandings and present your ideas honestly and transparently. 

Building community

Creating professional relationships only feels scary when we forget that it’s really just about expanding our community. Enjoying well-rounded and meaningful connections makes us feel more fulfilled and related to our world.

Consider your career network an extension of the community you’ve been cultivating your whole life. These people care for you and want you to succeed — you just have to let them.

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Published January 9, 2023

Maggie Wooll

Managing Editor

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