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A Guide to Networking: How to Connect with Others and Grow Your Career

You’ve probably heard the phrase: “Your network is your net worth,’ a punchy modern take on ‘it’s not what you know, it’s who you know”.

Increasingly referred to as ‘social capital,’ networking is defined as building, maintaining, and using relationships for career advancement. It has become a powerful tool to advance your career and provide an enduring interpersonal safety net that will carry you through hard times. In today’s interconnected world, where so much relies on word-of-mouth, reputation, and personal referrals, a strong network of people who can vouch for you is more important than ever.

Some people may find networking daunting. If you’re one of them, remember you don’t have to befriend the whole world to take this career progression opportunity. Because there are so many channels, you can choose the ones you feel most comfortable with. If you’re wondering where to pick up from, follow along for our easy guide to start networking.

Networking can help you grow your career

A professional network can offer many things, but perhaps the most talked about is career growth. Research shows that people with stronger networks earn higher salaries and are promoted more often throughout their careers. Studies also show that people with diverse contacts have better access to information that helps them be more innovative in the workplace.

Benefits of networking

  • When you interact with others, you constantly gather information, which helps you learn, grow, and perform at a higher level. You can use your network to gain insights about your industry, for example, by talking to a thought leader on LinkedIn, getting feedback on an important project by interacting with peers or gaining tips on how to excel at your organisation by talking to senior leaders. 
  • It boosts your profile and reputation within your industry and often serves as a career progression opportunity. The more people see your face, learn your name, and associate you with a certain skill set, the more clout you will build.
  • When job hunting, a network can introduce you to opportunities before they’re advertised, and you get to meet the right employers, clients, or people who could be a stepping stone to changing your life.
  • You gain access to influential people who you would have a hard time getting in touch with otherwise. Industry events often feature workshops from business leaders and pros from other parts of the world.
  • Seeing how others in similar positions have attained top positions can provide you with a roadmap for your own career development.
  • You stay up-to-date on the industry, news, and trends. Attending events like workshops or seminars, or talking to people who are leaders in their fields, means you continually have access to the latest information and strategies.
  • It builds self-confidence in your abilities when interacting with other professionals in your field, especially as you get used to presenting your skill set and speaking to people in top positions.

Practical advice to start networking

Here are practical steps to get your career networking off the ground.

Build a personal brand

FourthRev Career Coach, Maiyo Febi, says that before you start networking, it’s important to build a personal brand. A personal brand is a ‘perception of an individual based on their experience, expertise, skills, personality, actions and/or achievements within a community, industry or the marketplace.’

She urges professionals to take inventory of who they are and what their personality is about. Doing an online personality test, such as Enneagram or the Gallup CliftonStrengths assessment, is a good place to start. Combine your personality test outcome with your expertise, experience, skills, and achievements to formulate a powerful statement that sells you who you are well. This way, when you’re at a networking event, and people ask you what you do, you’ll be able to articulate what you bring to the table with confidence and fluency.

Launch yourself on LinkedIn

LinkedIn is an excellent professional networking platform that offers various career advancement opportunities. Another one of our Career Coaches, Adele Leah, suggests that once you’ve updated and optimised your profile, you should join groups relevant to your industry and request recommendations from your first-degree connections. 

Regularly interact with posts and comments, and use hashtags in posts you create so that you’re easy to find. Because LinkedIn is primarily about making connections, Adele suggests you upgrade to Premium, even if only for a short time, to boost your search functionality and the number of connections you can make. 

Join Meetup and other networking events and groups

Meetup has been around for over two decades and is still considered one of the most effective social networking platforms for connecting individuals with shared interests. Meetup groups are organised around various themes, such as technology, entrepreneurship, marketing, coding, and even professional networking.

When you sign up, you’ll be able to pick a category such as ‘boost your career’ and then find groups or events in your area. On the group page, you can see its members, the organiser/s, events, photos, and discussions. When you find something that interests you, simply request to join. 

You can also give Eventbrite and Facebook a whirl or look for Mastermind group meet-ups using a simple Google search. These events happen in person or via video conference and are designed to get you thinking critically about your industry and profession. In these groups, members share their knowledge and skills and support each other in reaching their goals.

Harness the power of professional associations

Professional associations, such as TechUK, often hold events and conferences that provide the opportunity to meet people face-to-face. In addition to networking opportunities and one-on-one conversations with industry experts, you can access educational resources and training programmes through workshops and seminars.

Connect with industry experts and likeminded peers through a Career Accelerator

When you enrol in one of our Career Accelerators, we provide ongoing opportunities to network with peers and experts in the field during live facilitator-led sessions, masterclass presentations and in an online forum.

During the Employer Project, learners interact directly with employers and experts in the field by working on a real business problem set by an Employer Partner. Working as part of a small group, you’ll get to ask questions, pitch your ideas, construct a complete solution and receive feedback.

Learners who live in the same area often organise in-person meet-ups, which is another great way to build working relationships.

Use your network to make your next career move

Whether you’re starting your career journey, making a career switch, or are solely focused on career progress and growth, networking is a critical competency. Based on trust and support, and with the potential to open up a whole new world of opportunities, it can mean the difference between an ordinary career and a phenomenal one. 

Once you’ve chosen your networking channels and prepared your personal brand statement, reach out, introduce yourself, shake some hands, and start talking to people. You’re only a conversation away from your next great connection!

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