Build Your Professional Network: 5 Steps To Get You Started

Networking is a necessary part of the business world. Establishing relationships gives you access to potential vendors, employees, or resources. A fellow business professional can often give you the advice you need to help you through a challenging business decision. Building a comprehensive network takes time, but is worth the work. Here are some ways to begin.

Attend Events

One of the easiest ways to start is at a networking event. These are usually business lunches where professionals enjoy a meal and meet other people. Effective networks are comprised of diverse individuals. Attend a variety of networking events to meet different people. For vendor or supplier connections, attend an event for people within your industry. Alternatively, participate in networking events outside of your industry.

Ask for Names

When you sign in, ask the registration officials for the names of the people essential for coordinating the event. Keep an eye out for those individuals and make it a point to greet them. Introduce yourself and ask for a business card. They will have access to the event guest list. You can contact them if you missed a valuable connection and ask for an introduction.

Listen to Others

One of the easiest ways to build rapport with new people is by listening. Before you meet someone new, practice active listening skills, such as:

  • Ask great questions
  • Restate what the person said
  • Use body language to communicate interest in the conversation
  • Don’t talk more than 20% of the time

Do Your Research

Stay up-to-date on current events, performing arts activities, and sporting events. Show that you are well-versed in the community. Gather information about a person before meeting them for a one-on-one business lunch. Find their social media and look for clues about their interests and families. If you learn information at your meeting, like an upcoming anniversary date, make a note and send a message to them at that time.

Prepare to Give

If people know you are willing to help them, they are more likely to assist you. Pay attention to others’ interests and look for opportunities to share knowledge about that topic. For example, if you meet an avid runner, send them a book about the history of athletic shoes. Share an interesting article about cross-training.

Creating a professional network can help you build a stronger company. Your peers can provide a wealth of assistance and knowledge, giving you a competitive advantage.