How to Network Like a Pro: 15 Never-Outdated Tips to Get You Started

Shortly after college, many adults experience stagnation in their lives. They often find themselves stuck in a routine, wondering why new opportunities aren't emerging. This is why networking is important. The easiest way to make your life dynamic is to meet new people. Applying this fundamental philosophy to your career will introduce you to a higher-paying job and a more prestigious title.

In this article, we'll go over the many different ways that networking will develop your career. You can still use these tips to build a powerful network even if you are not extroverted.

Table of Contents

But first, let's get started with the definition.

What is Networking?

Networking usually involves the exchange of ideas and information among a group of people with the same or similar interests. It generally takes place in a more informal setting. Professionals and job seekers use it more often to expand their network, search for new job opportunities, or gain more wisdom in different fields.  

Different types of networking are in place, broadly divided into online networking and in-person networking. With the effects of the global pandemic, online networking has become increasingly popular and used by various companies and organizations. They both certainly have their pros and cons. Online networking provides flexibility in attendance from anywhere and accessibility to participants; think of virtual open house events, online information sessions, some skills webinars, or virtual networking events. On the other hand, in-person networking allows for deeper personal connections and physical interactions. Some examples of in-person networking events include career fairs, professional conferences, and roundtable discussions.

Why is Networking Important?

The Benefits of a Strong Professional Network

Meeting others, professionally or non-professionally, will provide you with a valuable support network. You will have a group of individuals to bounce ideas off and learn from. You'll gain access to passive information about major news and trends in your industry. If these professionals have attained positions you aspire to, they can offer first-hand knowledge on achieving your goals.

It's Good for Your Career Development and Advancement

Whenever you're looking for a new job, your support network will be there to introduce you to a greater opportunity, and if you're looking to expand your business, they can lead you to potential clients. Everyone knows that having influential or numerous clients can give you more leverage for securing a higher position or opening doors to business success.

You can also extend your circle internationally; they will be a great, reliable source to gain insights into overlooked emerging trends and markets.

You Can Significantly Improve Your Skills

A significant benefit of networking is staying informed about new technologies and skills in rising demand. Individuals in your network might work in adjacent roles or industries, offering out-of-the-box ideas for improvement. Additionally, your circle may include authoritative and highly proficient individuals who can serve as mentors, giving you valuable career advice and guiding you toward becoming an accomplished professional.

You Always Stay Informed

One of the foremost reasons networking is so important is that it helps you stay up-to-date. Many individuals stagnate in their careers because their understanding of the industry becomes outdated, but a strong professional circle can ensure you remain current with industry trends.

And, Of Course, Personal Branding

Being well-known in your industry is advantageous. A large network can elevate you to the status of an authority figure, as word-of-mouth remains the most powerful form of advertisement and endorsement. Networking also attracts clients and hiring managers to you, enabling you to leverage your reputation for promotions or transitions into roles such as consultant or content creator.

How to Network Like a Pro: 15 Never-Outdated Tips

Whether you already possess strong networking skills or are a novice just starting out, there's always room to acquire new knowledge and further develop your abilities. Take a look below at some tips that will get you started with improving your networking skills. 

1) Network with Purpose

To start networking, you must first establish what you want to achieve in your career. Meeting a bunch of random people isn't an efficient way to move your career forward. Think about your career path and the types of people you want to surround yourself with. Successful people are generally around other successful people. The first step to achieving your goal is being in a league with people who have what you want.

List a few things that you want to do professionally. Of those goals, try to narrow them down to the ones you truly value the most. Do not worry about how long it will take to achieve the goals. Once you've narrowed your goals, you can now think about the types of people you can meet to help push yourself in the right direction.

If you want to become an expert programmer in a language like Swift for a mobile gaming company, you have many different types of people to contact. Do not think you need to find someone doing EXACTLY what you plan on doing - but more broadly.

 For example, you can find people who:

  • Work for a mobile gaming company
  • Are involved in headhunting
  • Consult gaming companies
  • Write for gaming publications
  • Have a social media following on how to become an expert at Swift
  • Is an expert coder in another language 
  • Is a colleague with someone who is a project manager for a mobile gaming company

2) Finding Your People

Once you've established your goals and the type of people you want to connect with, you can start thinking about how to find them.

The most obvious way is going to events that are dedicated to networking. You can use groups on LinkedIn or Facebook to find these types of professional events.

You can also dive into your current connections. Reaching out to some friends who are in related industries is a great way to find information or leads to people who can help your career or network through your clients. If you want to break into the biotech industry and you've done quality freelance work with a client, they can be powerful allies as they can vouch for your ability and reliability.

You can connect with people in non-professional settings as well. For instance, if you want to break into finance and enjoy cocktails, you could try cocktail bars around the financial district to meet people close to that sector. If you want to work for a big corp and their office is near a cafe or restaurant, you could try working around that area.

People can sense when you are being transparent or trying to use them. Legitimately, befriending is incredibly important for effective networking. 

3) Plan Ahead of Time

Planning ahead is always a good idea to prepare important materials and tackle unforeseen events. This applies to both online networking scenarios and in-person networking events.

If you're joining an offline networking event, you can plan ahead by researching:

  • The job titles of people you will likely meet
  • The business or products the company you are interacting with offers
  • Some appropriate small-talk topics

You can also prepare business cards to pass around, plan your conversation, or even an elevator pitch, which may be an impressive way to introduce yourself (we will mention more details on how to do so below).

Networking through online channels might be a bit different. If you're joining an online networking gathering or skills workshop, make sure to familiarize yourself with the host by asking questions to understand more about the topic they share. When they have already memorized you, it will be easier for you to connect online since you both have shared interests.

For those who prefer sending cold emails, plan how to approach your "target" politely and genuinely. You can start the conversation by mentioning your similarities (maybe you work in the same industry) or how you get to know their names.

Being well-prepared for networking will not only leave a good impression on others but also indicate that you are an organized individual who is a valuable asset.  

4) Be Open-minded 

While seeking valuable connections in your industry or from desired companies is natural, staying open-minded can lead to more opportunities. For instance, networking with someone from a completely different field can lead to a collaboration opportunity, or someone with a different experience and background could provide you with a new perspective and likely new contacts. 

Being open-minded also makes others feel more comfortable talking to you, leading to better interaction during networking and opening up more doors to new opportunities.

5) Equip Yourself with an Elevator Pitch

The elevator pitch is what you say to someone when you only have 30 seconds. It needs to be concise and to the point. Design a flexible pitch to use mid-conversation, and practice it until it becomes natural.

When writing your elevator speech, keep these keynotes in mind:

  • Express what you do.
  • Show something that you've done to demonstrate your competency.
  • Mention the next goal that you hope to accomplish.

Do NOT:

  • Tell your life story. Your resume will explain what you can do in greater detail.
  • Use unfamiliar jargon from your profession.
  • Go directly into your elevator pitch without warming into it.

The goal of an elevator pitch is to lead to an exchange of contact information. If it is correctly implemented, later on you can share your resume and portfolio, or even involve meetings, etc.

Now, how can you seamlessly include this elevator pitch during your conversations? Well, when you're talking to someone, and they bring up something of interest, you can segway into your elevator pitch.

6) Let the Other Person Talk 

Listening is often overlooked in networking. People spend 60% of conversations talking about themselves. Our advice? Be a good listener—pay attention to details and allow others to express their opinions. This leaves a lasting impression and makes conversations more enjoyable. This tip can also be applied when making a new friend.

7) Use Different Social Networking or Social Media Platforms

As technology continues to develop and much of our lives have been digitalized, being present on social media and utilizing it to extend your network is another key to successful networking. LinkedIn and Facebook are great platforms for finding networking events and contacts. Sharing updates and achievements increases your visibility and attracts potential recruiters and useful contacts.

8) Think of Ways That You Can Help Others  

Building connections is a two way street. Focus on how you can help others rather than just what you can gain. It may be that you have other useful networking contacts and job opportunities to offer or that you respond to the other person with plenty of encouragement and compliments. Sometimes, all you need is to be authentic and genuine, share what you are passionate about, and help others feel comfortable about themselves to be exceptional at networking.

9) Don't Ask for a Job or Force People Into Being Your Business Partners

Asking for a job is often one of people's biggest networking mistakes when building networking connections. Avoid directly asking for a job or forcing business partnerships during your conversation. Networking is about building relationships and creating rapport. not for a referral or interview. Show sincere interest, discuss common interests, and share ideas. When opportunities arise, people will be more willing to refer you or consider partnerships.

10) Be Straightforward 

While you shouldn't directly ask for a job or force people into being your business partners, it's important to be straightforward when networking. Avoid leading people through numerous topics only to end the conversation by asking for a favor. Be direct about your intentions.

Communicate clearly that you are seeking to form a professional relationship. This transparency helps others understand how to engage with you and establishes appropriate boundaries within your network.

During networking events, skip the small talk if possible. If you want advice on whether a certificate is better for your career than an MBA, simply ask. If you’re interested in how someone with a background in writing copy became an expert in machine learning, then start the conversation with that. People often enjoy taking on the role of a mentor. Assisting others brings a sense of fulfillment. Connecting individuals within their network brings gratification. So, there's no need to be overly cautious about expressing your desires.

11) Give Back Even When You Have Nothing to Offer

It can feel uncomfortable asking people for things when you have nothing to offer. However, there are ways to give back even if the person you're networking with has no use for your skills or experience.

You can regularly support them on their social network feeds. Share or comment on posts they make on LinkedIn, for example. You can also volunteer when they make a call to action, asking people to participate in a project. If you find events or information you feel the person you're networking with will appreciate, you should share it with them. You can also ask them what they think of the article or event.

12) Build Relationships with People of All Levels. Don't Dismiss Anyone.

As with staying open-minded, don't be selective when meeting people. Forming connections with people at all levels, including junior positions, is beneficial. You can learn from everyone, and more contacts mean more opportunities. For one, there are simply more people on lower than higher levels.

Be ready to network with a wide range of people. Be respectful, stay open-minded, and use different networking connections that you might make.

13) Meet People Through Others 

One of the best ways to expand your network is through your current professional connections. By being introduced through someone within your network, you are more likely to receive a friendly welcome from the people you hope to contact.

This also applies to social media and professional networking sites. Asking for a referral online will help get your foot in the door much easier while building up your virtual network and online presence.

14) Always Remember to Say Thank You

Gratitude is a virtue. Always thank people for the help and support they have given you. The same applies when you are looking to build your network. It is about building authentic and caring relationships. If you're joining an offline networking event, always make sure to thank people for a great conversation. Or, if someone has provided you with information or a referral, thank them for their effort, share any knowledge you think would be useful to them, or ask if you can return the favor in any way. 

Most importantly, thank them even when they couldn't help you. Show them you appreciate their time and willingness to converse with you.

15) Follow Up With Them

Following up is often overlooked but essential. When you promise to send contact details, documents, or reports, ensure you do so. This demonstrates credibility and helps build a strong foundation for your relationship, increasing the chances of being contacted when opportunities arise. Overall, it will be good for your career development.

Online Networking Opens Doors to New Networking Opportunities

Online platforms make reaching out to people convenient and less stressful. Job search platforms such as CakeResume or LinkedIn have social networking functions that allow you to message people directly.

Search for people who have related skills or experience aligned with your goals. LinkedIn and CakeResume offer robust filters, enabling you to find the type of individuals you seek.

If you're interested in working in the 3D printing industry, you can visit several 3D printing company profile pages. These pages will have employees listed, and you can contact them there.

Having mutual connections or friends with someone can be used as an icebreaker when reaching out to them. Tell them what you're trying to learn about something they know a lot about. People like feeling knowledgeable, so there is a good chance they will help or give you some advice.

Here is an example of how you can reach out to someone:

"Hi ____. I recently moved to this part of town and noticed you work in _____. I'm really interested in learning about this field. I see you've also worked with Juliet; we went to college together. It would be wonderful if you could spare half an hour over coffee to explain the landscape to me."

You can also consider networking apps like CakeResume Meet to build your connections. CakeResume Meet is an intuitive networking platform that allows users to easily swipe left or right to connect with anyone they want—from employers and headhunters to job seekers, mentors, and students. You can read more about CakeResume Meet here.

If you continue, you will reach a point where you form a reputation within that industry. Avoid doing things that can tarnish that reputation.

Do not burn bridges if certain relationships do not work out how you expect them to. Don’t trash or insult people online or in any conversation with anyone. Some industries have close-knit communities, and gossip can spread quite quickly. Once you share something online, it can be difficult to get rid of it.

When undertaking projects or assisting others, consider not only the immediate financial benefits but also aim to build a reputation as a reliable individual.

Key Takeaways

Networking is not something you do once or twice in your life. You'll continue to do it as you grow professionally and personally.

There is no greater benefit to networking than forming strong relationships. These relationships can evolve into friendships and mentorships. These potential lifelong bonds are why networking is so important. Be purposeful, genuine, and professional; you will go far in your career with networking. When you can help others, you will understand the gratification others feel when helping you.

You can acquire great knowledge about becoming a better professional through networking, but you can also learn by yourself. Countless articles on CakeResume will show you tips and strategies to advance your career.

If you like this article, bookmark this article and come back when you need! We wish you all the best in your career!

CakeResume is the best resume builder, allowing you to create a professional online resume easily. You can simply drag and drop any resume elements into the live editor screen, customize your resume layout, and add or remove any sections as needed. The tool is completely free to use and download. Start making your job-winning resume today!

— Originally written by Wayne Chang and Christopher Grudge —

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