🌻10 Useful Tips To Build A Solid Professional Network(HIGHLY RECOMMENDED)

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The year was 2019. I had just detached myself from the cult I was actively part of for the prior four years. My goal for the next chapter of my life was clear: to break into the tech world. I only had a few months of experience with Python back then and I was working in the postroom of the City of London’s Guildhall. Fast forward three years, I’m working as a freelancer with some of the most reputable tech organizations in the world. How?

If you asked me how I’m going to break into tech in 2019, I would have responded “I’ll do whatever it takes.” As I’ve grown into my profession and met with several other professionals, I realized there’s a more formal name for what has got me to where I am now: networking.

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Networking is a necessary ingredient for building a successful career — I learned that the hard way during my time as a professional footballer. Being equipped with all the skills and education is great but without the right connections, it can be extremely difficult to make progress.

Everybody should put effort into building a strong network, even if you’re an introvert, like me. It can be scary to make connections at first but once you get the hang of things it sort of becomes second nature. For the remainder of this article, I’m going to provide you with some tips that have helped me so far.

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1 Be clear & deliberate about the type of people you want to meet

Quantity is not better than quality in this case. Handing and collecting several business cards from random people is not what networking is about. Networking is about connecting and building genuine relationships that are mutually beneficial. Thus, you must consider who you think can help you and become the person who can help them in return.

To build a strong network you must be deliberate. Knowing the ideal type of person you’d like to connect with is the first step in the right direction. The next step is to focus on getting into environments where you can find more of these people so you can meet them. Trying to meet as many people as possible is not a good approach.

Read also: 6 things highly respectable people don’t do (super article)

2 Use social media networks

Over 3.6 billion people used social media worldwide in 2020 — this is projected to increase to almost 4.41 billion by 2025 [Source: Statista]. To better put these numbers into perspective: 46% of the world’s population was using social media in 2020. The point I’m trying to emphasize is that the internet gives you access to a large range of people from across the globe.

Social media platforms like Linkedin, Twitter, and Facebook were created to help people socialize. It’s in your best interest to capitalize on their presence. I’d even go as far as saying “you should start networking online” for the simple fact that you can make faster progress than if you were to solely depend on in-person connections.

With social media platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, etc, you can get some quick wins under your belt and then expand to in-person connections in the future.

3 Connect others

A good networker isn’t only thinking about themselves. Part of having a strong network is contributing to the growth of people in your existing network. Thus, you don’t always have to benefit from something in a networking relationship. If there are people in your network that you think would be of more use to one another than you could be then connect them. It’s just as effective.

4 Add value first

We all have problems — this includes the people you want to connect with to progress your career. Play into this narrative. It may require you to do considerable research to discover what the person you want to connect with is all about, but if you think their connection going to be as beneficial as the time it will take to learn then why not?

Most people expect you to ask for their assistance when networking. If you flip this expectation on its head, you send a shock to their system. Not only will they be grateful, but they’ll also be more willing to return the favor.

5 Follow-up with existing connections

A connection is not a one-time thing. Once you’ve connected with someone, make it your duty to follow up with them at regular intervals. But the only way this can remain authentic is if you take a genuine interest in them and what they’re doing. If you met them in person, be sure to send a follow-up message as soon as you can to thank them for the interaction.

A variable to consider is the other party’s time. Just because you may have some downtime to reach out and connect doesn’t mean they are equally as available. With this in mind, a video call or in-person meeting every quarter is a great way to stay connected with existing connections.

Read also: Change these 5 things to change your life (must read)

6 Attend events

If the word “networking” is in the title, run. Instead, go to:

Industry-specific events
Open forums
Happy hour meetups
Webinars or workshops
etc
Such events are great for meeting new people, regardless of whether they are virtual or in-person. Don’t just cozy up in the corner once you arrive. Make an effort to meet at least one new person.

7 Always have clear intentions

Starting the conversation is only the first hurdle, the next hurdle is showing intent. This means you’ve got to have a clear goal in mind for why you want to connect to the person you’re connecting with and make it known at the earliest opportunity.

Making your intentions known from the jump is scary to some people for one simple reason: it puts you in a position to be rejected. In reality, the worst someone could say to you is they aren’t interested in connecting with you and that’s fine — they may not have been all that useful to you anyways. There are several other people that are willing to connect with you so focus on them.

8 Ask for referrals

Referrals are absolutely king. If you’ve already established a rapport with someone and you see that they’re connected to someone you’d like to meet, ask for a referral. These types of connections are usually successful.

Remember you’re representing the person that made the introduction once you’re connected. This means you should: ensure you’re reliable and make the person who introduced you look good by giving off a good impression of yourself.

9 Build an online presence

The game changes when you become the person people want to connect with. Creating content in the form of a blog or video, making interesting social media posts, and sharing information related to your industry are all great ways to build an online presence and begin attracting people to you.

In the beginning phases it will be slow but focus on consistency. Being prolific in the beginning may help to speed up the growth, but not when quality is completely compromised. Thus, it’s vital you find the sweet spot where you can share with good frequency and good quality.

Read also: The true way to improve yourself (must read)

10 Establish your own network/community

You can establish your own networking group. recently did this with his AI/ML/Data Technical Writers discord channel. The idea is to bring like-minded people together and share ideas that help others to grow as technical writers in the data space. Being the leader of such a group makes you more sought after since people always want to know the head honcho.

But that’s an online example. Sites like Meetup and Eventbrite are great for setting up events people can attend in person.

Contributed by Kurtis Pykes

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