Strategies for Building Your Professional Network

In today’s competitive business landscape, building a strong professional network is crucial for career advancement and unlocking new opportunities. Recognizing the significance of networking, the CEO of Kitrum, a leading company in the industry, shares valuable advice on how to establish and cultivate a robust network. Drawing inspiration from renowned sociologist Mark Granovetter and successful professionals like Dan Schawbel, Richard Branson, and tech conference-savvy CEOs, this text explores the different types of networking, their benefits, and associated challenges. Furthermore, it offers practical tips for developing effective networking strategies to maximize the advantages and overcome obstacles. So, let’s embark on this journey together and discover the key strategies for building a powerful professional network.

Building relationships with people in your industry allows you to gain valuable insights, access new opportunities, and expand your knowledge and skills. Just ask Mark Granovetter, who is a prominent sociologist and professor at Stanford University, best known for his research on social networks. He found that a significant proportion of job leads (around 60%) came from weak ties, demonstrating the importance of social networking.

His research proves that people with many acquaintances and loose connections in their networks are more successful at finding new jobs and opportunities than those who rely solely on their close friends and family.

So, what are the different types of networking, and what are the benefits and challenges associated with each? How can you build your own network, and what are the main strategies for doing so?

Let´s delve into details together.

What is networking?

Networking is creating and maintaining relationships with like-minded people who can provide professional support, opportunities, or guidance throughout your career. By investing time and effort to cultivate these relationships, you can create a robust network that can benefit you in countless ways. 

According to Techjury, a majority of professionals, precisely 80%, believe a solid professional network that can enhance their career success. One example of successful networking is Dan Schawbel, a founder and CEO of Workplace Intelligence, a research and advisory company that helps organizations improve their employee experience, and the author of several books on personal branding, career development, and workplace trends. 

Schwabel’s work has been featured in numerous media outlets, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, and CNN. He also regularly contributes to publications such as Fast Company and Harvard Business Review.

He started his career by attending industry events and building relationships with other professionals. Through his networking efforts, he secured a job at a top PR firm and eventually launched his own successful business. 

3 types of networking

Networking is essential for anyone looking to advance their career or expand their professional opportunities. But did you know that not all networking is created equal? There are three distinct types of networking, each with its unique benefits and strategies. 

Whether you’re a seasoned professional or just starting, understanding the differences between these types of networking can help you build stronger relationships, achieve your goals more effectively, and create new opportunities for success. 

So, let’s dive into the three types of networking: operational, personal, and strategic.

#1 Operational networking

Operational networking focuses on building relationships with people within your current organization. This form of networking is designed to promote coordination and collaboration among individuals who need mutual understanding and confidence in one another to carry out their immediate responsibilities effectively.

When Mark Zuckerberg was building Facebook, he relied heavily on operational networking within his organization to bring in talented engineers and grow the company. By fostering a culture of collaboration and building strong relationships with his team members, Zuckerberg created one of the most successful tech companies in history.

#2 Personal networking

Personal networking refers to building relationships with people outside your immediate organization or industry to achieve personal or professional goals. This type of networking often involves meeting new people, attending events and conferences, and utilizing social media platforms to expand your network and connect with like-minded individuals.

Consider Richard Branson, a well-known entrepreneur and founder of the Virgin Group. He has attributed much of his success to building relationships with people in various industries and creating mutually beneficial partnerships. 

For example, when starting Virgin Atlantic Airways, he formed a partnership with Boeing and secured financing from a group of investors with whom he had previously built relationships. Through these operational networking efforts, Branson built a successful airline that is still thriving today.

#3 Strategic networking

This type of networking aims to create a network of contacts who can provide value or support for your strategic business objectives in the future. Strategic networking can be particularly effective when used in conjunction with other career development strategies, such as enhancing your brand or creating a robust online presence.

Consider a CEO of a startup tech company who attends a tech conference and meets several venture capitalists (VCs). They have a productive conversation and exchange contact information. Over the next few weeks, the CEO keeps in touch with the VCs, sending them regular updates about the company’s progress. One of the VCs shows a particular interest in the startup and eventually agrees to invest. With this funding, the CEO can grow the company and eventually lead it to a successful acquisition by a more prominent tech firm.

In the example above, the CEO strategically networked with VCs to secure funding that helped his company grow and succeed. This example demonstrates how strategic networking can be paramount for entrepreneurs and CEOs in securing financing and developing their businesses.

Advantages and potential pitfalls

From expanding your professional circle to gaining new insights and opportunities, the benefits of networking are undeniable. But what about the challenges? 

Despite the numerous advantages, you must overlook the potential pitfalls of networking. These challenges can often deter even the most ambitious networkers from not having time to network to build genuine relationships. That’s why it’s essential to understand both the benefits and challenges of networking so that you can make the most of your efforts and overcome any obstacles that stand in your way. 

Benefits of networking

  1. Finding job opportunities, you may have yet to discover otherwise.
  2. Access to information and resources that can help you advance your career or business.
  3. Increasing your visibility and credibility within your industry or field.
  4. Finding potential project collaborators or partners that lead to new opportunities and increased success.
  5. New opportunities for personal and professional growth through exposure to new ideas, perspectives, and experiences.

Challenges of networking

  1. Time-consuming, especially if you attend events or engage in online networking regularly.
  2. Building genuine relationships can be challenging, and it may take time and effort to establish connections with people who can help you advance your career or business.
  3. Approaching strangers or acquaintances for networking can be daunting, and the fear of rejection may be a barrier for some.
  4. Once you’ve established connections, it can be challenging to maintain those relationships over time, especially if you have an extensive network.
  5. Not all networking opportunities are equal, and finding the right ones that align with your goals and interests can be time-consuming.

Tips for your networking strategy

Whether you’re looking to advance your career, grow your business, or expand your network, developing effective networking strategies is key. 

Here are some tips for successful networking. By incorporating them into your networking approach, you can increase your chances of success and maximize the benefits of networking.

  • Participate in company events, such as social gatherings or volunteer activities. It can help you connect with your colleagues in a more relaxed environment and build relationships beyond the workday.
  • Reach out to mentors within your company who can guide and support your career development.
  • Be open to learning from colleagues in different departments or with different skill sets. They may have insights or perspectives that can help you grow professionally.
  • Offer to help your colleagues with their work or projects. It can build goodwill and foster a positive working relationship.
  • Join employee resource groups or committees that align with your interests or passions. It can provide opportunities to meet colleagues from different departments.
  • Use networking tools and apps to efficiently stay in touch with contacts and build relationships with individuals who share similar interests and goals.
  • Research and identify networking events or groups that align with your goals and interests. Attend events regularly to build relationships with other professionals.
  • When networking, focus on listening to others and learning about their needs and interests.
  • After networking events or meetings, follow up with contacts to continue building relationships. Connect on social media or LinkedIn, and schedule coffee or lunch meetings to keep in touch.