Skip main navigation

New offer! Get 30% off your first 2 months of Unlimited Monthly. Start your subscription for just £35.99 £24.99. New subscribers only T&Cs apply

Find out more

Approaches to developing your network

Jennifer Rosen: When it comes to your career, one of the most important factors to develop is a strong network. This can be built up of friends, business contacts, influencers, mentors, and more. The network you cultivate for yourself is something you will be able to go back to throughout your career and life. We asked three professionals from different industries how networking has helped their careers and what tips they have when approaching networking.
Lu Li: When I moved to London, one of the first things I did was to attend the trade show aimed at the tourism industry to meet more people working in the same field. And there I met a very nice lady who was focusing on the same thing that I was looking to focus on, but for a different market. And we got chatting. We really liked each other. And then she helped me pitch myself to a very big client, which was Selfridges, which is a very well-known retailer and department store in London. So she helped me do that. And, as a result, I was able to win that contract.
Steve Crabtree: In my current role as an Executive Producer, networking is probably more important than ever. And whether it be spotting new talent from the researcher, AIP, producer, series producer, a pool of people, to people who may present TV shows or be experts on TV shows, it’s really important. So I spend an awful lot of time at events trying to meet people that we can bring into the industry because it’s a creative industry. It needs new, creative blood in it all of the time.
Anas Nader: A mentor really is someone that you aspire to be the same or to learn from. It tends to be someone who is at least a few steps ahead of you, kind of been there, done that, who is able to give you advice on how to develop your skills and seek a certain path along the same journey. My first mentor was when I was in my undergraduate degree at the University of Toronto. When I met Dr. Casellam, a cardiologist, who was nearing retirement and one of the things he wanted to do is create an online course that continues to teach students after his retirement. And he wanted someone to work with him on that project.
And he saw through me the ambition in me and wanted really to support me. And he said, let’s do it. He was very encouraging. He signpost me to the areas and places where I can pick up some more skills. But he was surprisingly patient with me. Because I was terrible at many things. I was not keeping on schedule, and keeping with the time. So whilst he was teaching me how to be good at developing a product, what really he taught me is the core skills I needed to learn for being a good teammate in any project in the future. So I’ve got much better communications with teams.
I’ve got much better at organising my time, delivering to timelines and deadlines, and just planning my day better.
Lu: Social media is a great tool to let the world know what you are doing. So I regularly post my work on LinkedIn. And, at one time, PWC, which is a very big company providing consulting services, they saw what I was posting on LinkedIn. And, as a result, got in touch with me. So they saw that I was working very closely with female entrepreneurs and I was an expert in the field. And, as a result, they offered me to work with them and co-create an accelerator programme for female entrepreneurs.
Anas: So that’s something that I only realised later in my years, the difference between a mentor and a coach. A coach is someone who probably can’t do what you do, but can give you quite a lot of good feedback and insight about yourself. So a great example would be a footballer, say, Ronaldo-Messi. They would be great mentors to young footballers who want to become as good as they are. But their own coaches would never be able to be as great footballers as them. But they’re there to give them feedback about their performance and their personal as well as their professional development.
So they’re really good observing at you, really good at giving you feedback, and probably know you better than you know yourself, to a certain extent. So I think it’s really important for people at the beginning of their careers to identify mentors and coaches and foster these relationships.
Steve: I think having the confidence to go up to someone and say, I just think what you’ve done was brilliant, here’s my email, here’s my phone number. Let’s have a coffee and talk about it further, is really useful.
Lu: I have two main tips related to networking. The first one is to be authentic. You should be yourself in any given situation and not tried to pretend to be somebody else that you might think might be more appealing to other people. And the second thing is to always think about what you can offer to the persons who you are speaking to. So a misconception around networking, I think, is that a lot of people think of networking as a very salesy thing and that’s why they don’t like it. But actually networking, to me, is really about relationship building.
And part of that is really to think about what you can offer to somebody else to ensure that they actually engage with you.
Jennifer: Along with all of the wonderful lessons we’ve learned from our contributors today, I also want to add how important it is to remember that, when it comes to your network, the best relationships are borne from mutual benefit. And that goes double for professionals who are at the beginning of building a new network. Look at networking as an opportunity to share– share yourself, share your common points of interest, share contacts that could be of help to others with their careers, too. And remember to be consistent. Make sure you connect with the right people and have a good infrastructure in place. Now, why don’t you go get started by networking with your fellow learners in the comments section?

One of the most important factors in developing your career is to cultivate a strong network.

Doing this will enable you to meet new people, introduce and connect with people and learn from others. It can also help to motivate you.

In this video, Anas Nader, CEO of Patchwork Health, Steve Crabtree, Executive Producer at BBC Studios, and Lu Li, Founder & CEO of Blooming Founders share their advice and tips on the best approaches to developing a network. The main approaches for networking that we will focus on are:

  • engaging at network events
  • seeking mentorship
  • using technology.

These are just a few of many possible ways for you to build and enrich your network. They are all strong approaches and can work very effectively when combined and nurtured.

The more you practise meeting new people and building your network, the more you will learn to identify which individuals, organisations and platforms are key to your personal network and growth.

Along with the lessons you’ve learned from our speakers, it’s also important to remember that the best relationships are born from mutual benefit. This is even more important for professionals who are at the beginning of building a new network.

In summary, you can look at networking as an opportunity to share. Share yourself, share common points of interest, and share contacts that could also help others with their careers. Remember to be consistent, make sure you connect with the right people, and follow up to show your interest and commitment.

Now it’s your turn:

You can make a start by networking with other learners in the Comments section. What information do you think would be useful to share?
This article is from the free online

Essential Skills for Your Career Development

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Reach your personal and professional goals

Unlock access to hundreds of expert online courses and degrees from top universities and educators to gain accredited qualifications and professional CV-building certificates.

Join over 18 million learners to launch, switch or build upon your career, all at your own pace, across a wide range of topic areas.

Start Learning now