“It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”
This common advice is often given to job seekers, entrepreneurs, or business owners looking for new opportunities. And while it’s often true, figuring out how to network and grow your connections is often easier said than done.
In truth, a lot of people cringe at the idea of networking because it conjures up images of awkward events with name tags and icebreakers.
So, we’re not going to use that word.
We’re talking instead about how to grow your network and nurture mutually beneficial professional connections, relationships, and partnerships that will help you meet your goals and allow you to help other people reach theirs as well.
This is simply about meeting and getting to know other people using the strategy that works best for you and your personality type.
Here are 12 tips for how to network and build valuable connections starting right now.
How to Network at Events
Events, both in-person and virtual, are one of the best options for how to network. Through real interpersonal interactions, you can quickly get to know other people.
Here are a few ideas for where you can go to grow your network.
1. Go to Conferences
Industry-specific conferences are top of the list for a reason—they’re perfect for growing your network. People don’t only attend conferences to learn from keynote speakers (though that’s great, too), but many attend specifically to network and meet other people in their industry.
2. Attend Networking Events
Networking events get a bad reputation, but not all of them are stiff and awkward.
In fact, a dedicated networking event is a perfect place to grow your network because everyone is there to do the same thing. You don’t have to be shy about asking for a business card and connecting on LinkedIn afterward—that’s what everyone’s there for.
There are so many benefits to volunteering. Not only are you giving back to an area of need in your community, but studies show that volunteering has a number of mental health benefits, including increased happiness and decreased stress.
And then, of course, it’s a fantastic way to meet other like-minded people with similar interests and values.
While you may not be seeking to work specifically at a non-profit organization, you can still benefit from expanding your network by getting to know people who care about the same causes and initiatives as you do.
How to Network Through Relationship-Building
Relationships are the foundation of how to grow your network. Yes, you can attend events and meet people, but you also need to foster those connections for them to benefit you in any way.
Here are a few tips on how to network and grow your connections through relationship-building and communication.
4. Use Social Media
Today, personal branding for professionals is an important way to grow your connections and opportunities. And a big part of this is having a strong online presence and regularly using social media to connect with others.
LinkedIn is the premier platform for professional networking, so make sure your profile is up to date and you’re actively adding and connecting with people you meet at events, through work or volunteering, and your personal contacts.
Other platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter can also be effective to build relationships. Join industry-specific groups or relevant hashtags to see what people in your industry are up to.
5. Seek Out Mentorship
With benefits ranging from increased productivity and engagement to a sense of belonging in the workplace, we can’t say enough positive things about mentorship,
Since one of the main outcomes of mentorship is to connect you with other professionals, seek out opportunities to be mentored today. This could be through a formal program offered at your workplace, or informally through your connections.
6. Stay in Touch with Your Network
You can grow a network quickly by meeting new people and exchanging information. But if you don’t stay in touch with your network, they don’t mean much.
Make sure you’re regularly interacting with people in your network. You can do this by commenting on their posts via social media, sending a personal message to check in, or connecting them with other like-minded professionals.
How to Network Through Professional Development
A less direct way to expand your network is by prioritizing your own professional development. By pursuing learning opportunities, you can further your knowledge and skills while meeting new people.
Here are some ways to do it.
7. Learn Something New
Upskilling and learning something new are great ways to grow your network—while increasing your own marketplace value.
Join a class, club, or group that’s working on a skill you want to pick up, and you’ll naturally connect with other people doing the same thing.
This can also apply to personal interests, too. Learning the guitar or picking up a sport may not be directly linked to your career goals, but you will meet more people and add to your network. You just never know who they know and what the connection can turn into.
8. Join Professional Organizations
Many industries and professions have formal associations or organizations you can join. It may be a group dedicated to job searching and networking, or it may specifically offer training, resources, and courses for you to keep up with.
Start with a Google search to find out what professional organizations exist for your industry. They may be online or in-person, local or country-wide. In any case, it’s a great option for how to network and meet more people in the same field of work.
If your industry doesn’t have a professional association, consider joining your alumni network, where you can connect with others who graduated from the same school and program as you.
9. Attend Workshops
Get hands-on with your knowledge and learning by attending workshops hosted by your workplace or coworking space, like the networking events and webinars we host here at Launch.
This might be a keynote speaker, lunch-and-learn, or multi-day workshop. Even if you’re not directly interested in the content, see it as a way to expand your network and increase your connections.
How to Network With a New Mindset
We’ve offered a lot of practical ways to meet other people and grow your network. But the reality is that this process is equally about your mindset and attitude than the specific actions you take.
Here are three areas you can work on to keep an open mindset and expand your network.
10. Focus On Quality Over Quantity
While the goal here is to expand your network, it doesn’t have to be super large to be effective. Focus on the quality of your connections over the quantity.
For example, if you’re at an event where you have the chance to meet a lot of people, spend some time first introducing yourself and getting to know a few people. Then, take time to dive into deeper conversations with those you’re most interested in getting to know. It will pay off in the long run to establish two or three real connections instead of 10 basic name exchanges.
11. Give, Don’t Just Take
If you approach growing your network with an attitude of what someone can give to you, you’re missing the point.
Your network should be reciprocal—there are two people to every connection. So while some people in your network can help set you up with opportunities or introductions, it’s not the only thing you should be focusing on.
Instead, consider what you can offer in the interaction. How can you share your expertise, knowledge, or connections with them?
The mindset of mutual reciprocity ensures you’re forming authentic relationships and not just using someone for what they have to offer.
12. Talk to Everyone
The last piece of advice for how to grow your network is to simply talk to everyone. An open, approachable mindset and attitude will help you form connections wherever you go.
Chatting with your barista, neighbor, or receptionist and networking in a coworking community could all lead to different opportunities. Every person you meet has their own network and, once you cross paths, your networks become intertwined.
So, stay friendly and open—talk to others wherever you go, and don’t be afraid to connect over your personal and professional interests and goals.
These twelve ideas for how to network are just that—ideas. You’re the one who has to take them and put them into action. We’re excited to see where you end up!
And if you’re looking for a community of like-minded professionals, you’ll find it at Launch. Contact us to book a tour of your local Launch Workplace today.