Creating a network
The smart professional knows how to foster an inspiring network of contacts to enable career growth and enhanced visibility within their industry.
In everyday work life, you’re surrounded by customers, clients, suppliers, colleagues and competitors. You also hear from (or about) industry leaders, people in related businesses or services and beyond. Each of them could bring ideas, insight, new business, support, and greater visibility to other connections, as well as challenges.
Social platforms make easy work of connections, but creating an effective network isn’t as simple as just selecting ‘follow’ a thousand times and hoping for the best.
In order to get the most out of your network, you need to think: What are the outcomes you want to see from this activity? They could include job offers, insight or visibility. Prioritising these will help you to understand who might be most useful to you for your goal.
A big network isn’t the aim. Think quality over quantity, and focus on relationships of value as well as connecting over a common context.
How can you start building a network?
You could seek out someone:
- you’ve met in a professional context who impressed you
- you think you could learn from
- you used to work with and respected
- a friend recommends to you
- working at a company you’re interested in or admire, in a similar role or department.
Find out where they are most active professionally, eg LinkedIn, or for more creative fields Instagram or Twitter, and reach out to them there.
Avoid the default invitation message on LinkedIn which simply says you would like to connect. You can add a brief personal note to your invitation, so use this to say a few words of greeting and why you’d like to connect, for example:
Hi Anne, I saw your presentation at […] and was very inspired. I run a business in Lancashire and I’m always interested in connecting with others in this field. Do you have any other upcoming speaking engagements? Thanks, Sarah
The same conventions apply for emailing people you haven’t met before, but with a few tweaks.
Writing a compelling email introduction is easy if you remember three things:
1. Make it clear
Have a clear subject line which attracts the curiosity of the recipient enough to open the email, eg ‘Invitation to company launch event 22 September 2020’.
Keep the main body of the message brief. Stick to a few sentences and ensure the main point of the message is obvious.
Include a call to action: a specific action which you either need or invite them to undertake:
If you’re able to make time for a brief introductory phone call, I’d love to explain more and answer any questions you may have. Please let me know when would suit you best.
If you don’t include a specific request for response, your recipient may assume that none is required.
2. Make it specific and valuable to the recipient
Avoid sending the same email to dozens of people. Nobody likes feeling on the receiving end of such lack of interest, so make your introduction stand out by being relevant, maybe specifying an existing connection:
We met last month at the Leeds social media drinks, hosted by our mutual contact [….]. I enjoyed speaking with you briefly then, and it would be great if we could connect via email or phone to follow up.
To make it valuable, add something they might find useful: insight, data, further connections or introductions are good.
3. Make it polite
Politeness is key to ensuring your message gets read and acted upon. Don’t forget the basics: respect someone’s time and show gratitude for their involvement. Avoid using overfamiliar slang like ‘cheers’ or ‘TTYL’ and stick to more formal phrases to thank them for their time.
Once you’ve started to curate a network of professional contacts, you need to interact regularly (directly with individual contacts or via the site or both), for example, by:
- replying to Tweets
- participating in discussions
- favouriting and sharing interesting content
- adding new contacts as you come across them to gradually build out your network
- removing contacts (quietly, without drama or notification) if they are no longer so relevant to your professional outlook.
Do this last step very cautiously: you never know who might be able to help you in future, and who you might be able to help.
Share your experiences:
Take a few minutes to think about the following:
- If you currently have a professional network, how did you create or grow it?
- If you don’t yet have a strong professional network, can you think of any places where you might be able to find the kind of individuals who might help you build one?
Share and discuss your ideas and experiences with other learners in the Comments section.