How do I build a professional network?
Everybody praises the importance of networking. I would like to hear any ideas on getting started. Does "cold-emailing" work? I'm not good at praising myself; is that a problem?
1. Create an awesome LinkedIn profile.
2. Outreach and connect to relevant industry leaders.
3. Join a LinkedIn group.
4. Engage in Industry forums.
5. Attend industry events.
Nowadays it's actually a good thing that you don't want to praise yourself. With the massive boom of Entrepreneurs in the recent years we're experiencing, EVERYBODY is "the best" at what they do. With as much access as everyone has to getting free basic websites and cheap professional quality fliers and Business Cards it's hard to tell on the surface.
Due to everyone being sick from the "instant microwave age" where everything is automated they've come to appreciate human to human contact more than ever, and our technology is starting to embrace that. So instead of blasting a bunch of content to everybody waiting to see who responds, you're better off placing yourself in different atmospheres where you can interact with them.
Once you've found a few places where you're surrounded by people you want to build relationships with, take the initiative to communicate with them and help them with your craft. Not saying you should do a bunch of free work, but take it upon yourself to assume a level of responsibility over whatever area of their Business you can honestly help with and offer advice and brief counseling on whatever matters you see need tending to.
Even if it does come to doing some degree of free work here and there, look at it as a better alternative to spending a bunch of money on advertising, either way you have to pay somehow and it's better to pay by showing the proof in the pudding than to pay to say you're the best and take the risk of not being sought out once it's all said and done. Aside from that, when you help people and show them you care about their success and growth, they appreciate it, so you never know how they might be able to step up to help and or consult you.
Once you're an integrated part of different circles and people trust you, they'll vouch for you and send other people to you when they're in need of your services and will be able to show actual examples of what you know and are capable of. Everybody is mainly focused on how they can make money and will stand still watching others drown if they don't see any dollars. While they're standing around waiting on some wave of billionaires to come along and throw money at them, you can integrate yourself into as many relevant things as possible simply by taking initiative.
The overall goal is to become a part of what everybody is doing and help them grow without them having to seek you out or ask. Once you start doing that and get involved with so many things, you'll start to see what needs to be done next in terms of how to manage it all which will inspire ideas for what type of content to put in front of them and how to make it meaningful and valuable so when they see it they actually gain something from it without having to purchase anything. At the end of the day this will drive them to spend money with you because you got them to look to you for solutions and advice. They know you know what you're doing and know you're in tune with what they're doing, that beats someone "new" who's impersonally sending them content that generally promises the same thing everybody else promises with no proof of their ability to deliver.
I am webmaster for Web and Electronic Indexing SIG of American Society for Indexing. Members are 20% editors and 80% indexers or librarians.
I did statistical analysis on membership locations and type of business using membership database on the site.
I read Microtrends by Mark Penn and came up with some groups that may fly with our demographics which are highly skewed to female librarians.
Because they were so spread out I mashed up their ASI chapter locations to get clusters based on state and country of our members. There are several chapters with over 10 members who do Web and electronic indexing. This seemed to form a synergy between location and people nearby and stopped waste of energy by me when trying to get people to connect from remote areas.
We encourage members to attend our meetings at the ASI annual conference in USA when Web Indexing Award winner is announced. This ties in this year with Chicago/Great Lakes Chapter which has a high number of Web and Electronic Indexing members as conference is in Chicago. This may get to critical mass and generate new membership and updated content in the SIG.
I rewrote Best Practices to include Web indexing and ebook indexing. This was a result of merging Web indexing (old dying area) and ebook indexing (new growth area).
The Website has to be improved and used as a hub as physical meetings are so rare.
I also ran and judged a Web Indexing Award where someone entered and showed me what they are doing in the industry which was quite fruitful.
I stick with English speaking members from Western countries due to cultural differences. Indians are so different and computer illiterate that it is hard to get them to join or use our Website. So I let Indians join ASI on their Website and join our SIG that way saving me a lot of work in logistics, translation and computer support.
I have kept the site up to date and used counters on all pages to judge activity and areas of interest.
I got rid of a lot of dead wood in membership by checking membership status of their home society and reduced it from 400 to 150. Now the hard core are there.
I send out a monthly newsletter on new members with net growth. This is helping to show members we are alive and viable.
I send out press releases occasionally to Australian and NZ Society of Indexers Newsletter and American Society for Indexing Key Words newsletter.
I ran membership surveys on members' backgrounds and then another on what ebook technology and skills they had. This helps grow industry.
The technical questions I leave to LinkedIn Group Indexes for Digital Publications. Web and Electronic Indexing Group on LinkedIn is dead but won't die but it helps me extend past members who must be active members of an indexing society as anyone can join the LinkedIn groups and it gets new blood into the group. As most indexers only index paper books, there is very little interest in Web and electronic indexing in mainstream indexing. This is an offshoot and has taken many years to mature due to traditional indexers being majority. Getting editors from outside is vital to keep Web and electronic indexing growing.
ASI HQ sends me updates on SIG membership which I import monthly which slowly grows the group via their main portal without effort re marketing on my part.
I have approached affiliated societies and some of their members have joined.
I am not a big fan of emails especially from vendors, suppliers or business sellers.
I use them just hoping for luck. Last week I realeased 76 emails and received only one reply.
Ray has put some great ideas.
If am to add anything I will say:
1. Make a list of all people whom you know and start connecting with them regularly. Those can be:
- family members,
- your college graduates
- people with whom you have worked before
- parents for your kids friends
Call at least three per day just to say hi and in the next call offer your help
2. Ask each of them to introduce you to someone new. Only one
3. Connect regularly with the new ones
4. Make these new introductions a weekly habbit
do the maths and calculcate the number of contacts you can generate in one month
What is your profession?
You don't have to answer me, but for yourself that is the first key to growth.
In today's market, sure you can do all of that...leg work.
I use myself as a teacher through proven examples;
With the right presentation of materials, from home online have built a GLOBAL network of over 16 million people and growing, in over 135 countries, which my local chamber of commerce could not possibly lead to. Having that network IS my current market value to anyone seeking to present their products or services to the open market.
The hard part for those over 35, I am 43, is most of us were not taught to create an online persona capitalizing on the overwhelming media social content competitors. We were taught to keep our proprietary information internal, thus counter culture to being in the OPEN PUBLIC market forum where networking occurs best.
Linked In IS great current solution. It will change in five years.
Find your field, then find discussions where instead of asking how to build one, start ANSWERING people's questions in your field so the people you seek, will come to you.
Perfect example is you are reading this now, if your business were in need of marketing and advertising services, then hiring our company which has worked for clients like USAA, would be a match to getting more market share for your company/individual seeking to gain publicity.
If however your seeking to get hired as an accountant, then networking with advertising marketers isn't going to lead to growth in your network, unless, if you are seeking an accounting job at a media company, in which case you don't need a network, you need to put in an application simply at Dreamworks and get hired for six figures a year.
All of which is possible through our company.
1. Engage a mastermind partner.
The most important part of finding a mastermind partner is choosing correctly. Make sure your partner is at your level and wants you to be successful. Schedule a weekly call and use each other as sounding boards.
2. Focus on providing value.
Schedule a designated day and time once a month to reach out to someone -- a colleague, peer or friend who could benefit from your support. Surprise support calls do many things: They elevate your sense of purpose in the world, provide a feeling of personal satisfaction, offer real value to someone else, heighten your standing in the community and spark a deeper connection.
3. Join an entrepreneurial group.
Entrepreneurial groups keep the spirit of growth and development alive. They may also be the place to find your mastermind partner. Prestigious organizations such as Young Entrepreneur Council, Entrepreneurs’ Organization or Young Presidents’ Organization are good when you’re more seasoned. Other groups such as the Ellevate network and the Summit Series are helpful no matter your level of business development.
4. Try a co-working hub.
Co-working hubs such as WeWork and Impact Hub are useful if working from home isn’t serving you. These spaces can immediately get you into community with big thinkers and are relatively inexpensive.
5. Prioritize personal relationships.
Your passion for your work can overwhelm your friends and family. Make an extra effort to show those people that they’re important, too. I schedule weekly time with my grandmother on my calendar, for example. While that may sound silly, there’s nothing wrong with using tools to hold yourself accountable for maintaining your personal relationships.
6. Get a coach.
Finding a coach who’s been in your shoes will keep you moving forward and ward off loneliness. Time to talk about yourself -- your challenges, goals and desires -- will do a number of things. It will stop you from overwhelming your romantic partner with work conversation, which isn’t healthy for your relationship. It will give you time to reflect on and recognize your behavioral patterns, strengths and weaknesses, helping you focus your energies and perform at a higher level. A good coach will have direct experience with your challenges and provide concrete advice for moving through them.
By focusing on developing a community and employing these strategies, you’ll find yourself enjoying faster business growth -- and a feeling of fulfillment.
I recommend face to face networking. There are many opportunities to join events such as Network after Work. Search for local organizations in the areas of your interest, I am sure you will find opportunities.
In my experience, I think these are a few small steps that work:
1) identify your niche / interest area
2) search LinkedIn, twitter for your niche
3) join a few groups and connect with experts and other people that interest you
4) email them or call and introduce yourself
This can be a start and you can expand your network.
If you are cold emailing make sure you have researched the person - this increases chances of success.
Thanks and hope this helps.
I guess this trail is going a bit cold, but I would offer a few thoughts.
First of all, as others have alluded to, the fact that you are not good at praising yourself is a good first step. A professional network is not established with one discussion, so initially ONLY making it about the other person and what you can do for them, is the best possible first step.
The implication is that you are not good or perhaps do not like to network. I am a VERY strong believer that the person who believes they are not a good networker but want to learn become much more effective at it than people who THINK they are good networkers. People who THINK they are good networkers typically say that because they have the gift of gab and are comfortable talking to people .. That is nice, but does not ensure effective networking, i.e. are they getting any results?
I wrote a paper on networking for those who hate it, which you are welcome to have. It is written for business owners primarily and also is talking mostly about networking groups and events. However, I think there are things that could be of assistance to you. Feel free to obtain this ebook by going to this link: http://bit.ly/NetworkingForTheFearful
2 main ways to do this; first you need to figure out what kind of person you are such as are you a people person as in love meeting face to face and going out socialising in that way or are you better communicating and socialising online? Best of both ways are best but not many people have those 2 qualities.
So once you figure out what you are, then you need to find out how that is done and what you can do to improve your skills and success rate. Most of this can be found online.
To network online is to reach out to anyone and anywhere and anytime as that is the main advantage compared to face to fare.
Social media sites such as facebook, twitter and linkedin are the main ones used and will take you some time to figure them out but the time invested in beneficial.
I would also add that besides the need to use the right tool (social and professional networks such as Linkedin, Facebook, etc.) and been active on them. Helping people solve their problems in this same environments helps a lot. Everyone wants to have a useful person around.
Share your tips, ideas, and business thoughts. Join LinkedIn groups--there are a bunch that are very active. You'll be valuable to others if you have good experience and information and are very free with sharing it.
Best way for building relationships, hands down, Sendoutcards.
As part of the "volunteering" solution, I have enjoyed supporting my students association for almost 30 years now. first as students, then as mentor and sponsor.
You've recieved a lot of great tips. The best place to look depends on the type of professionals you are looking to network with.
Who industries are you looking to network with?
Start by making a list of services or products that you need collaboration to accomplish. Then set out to find businesses that can benefit by participating. Then craft an approach to inviting them to do so. Before long it becomes second nature to include other businesses in your planning.
Personally I look for opportunities to share my expertise - these can be informally in forums and social networking. Other times it's writing blog posts or even creating training videos - not just on YouTube but also learning platforms like Udemy. My mantra these days is "Value before Reward" - http://bit.ly/value-reward
I am guessing that by now my Colleagues have said this in different ways. Sorry that I was late to the Party. The key is telling people What you have done and Why they should Want to Network with you. There is a notion of Relationship Management there. I like to always say that Relationship Management is best Executed on a Real Basis. Networks mean that there is Real Value on Both Sides. If not, then you are just another name on the List or you are just another name on their list. The word I would use in this day and Age is that you want a "Targeted Network." A network where you are looking for certain people to work with and to partner with. Happy to provide more ideas if it will help!
These responses are great! However, I would warn that if you are going to network through volunteer work, be careful. I did this and was requested to do a great deal as a volunteer, leaving me little time to earn money. Decide what you will volunteer for and how much you will volunteer. Set the limits and stick with them! Recruiting more volunteers is also a great way to network.
I voted up both Julia Neiman's and Brad Marcus answers. I myself have published articles on the subject of networking. And as I read your question, I think your start would be good to read some books (or listen to the audio versions):
Networking with millionaires - Thomas Stanley
How to make friends and influence people - Dale Carnegie
Just listen - Mark Goulston.
And some other books on networking you can find in an online shop.
I hope you will learn that praising yourself is not what networking is about. So if you are not good at that, its not a problem at all (it might even be beneficial for you that you aren't).
In essence it comes down to meeting people, building personal relationships and maintaining these personal relationships. In practice for me it means that I try to keep in touch with people every now and then. It can mean that for some I speak to them once a year, but that way we do stay a warm contact. Others I see or speak more often.
If you build and maintain these personal relationships with people who can help you get new projects, so if you do it on "fertile ground", then it is called networking in a professional way.
If you are good in what you do, and if you help people, they will see your qualities and then job-offers and projects etc just come to you. It happens to me, it happens to a lot of other people as well. Even if you don't ask for it, people will offer you projects.
If you do start cold-emailing, I think its best to show your knowledge, not by praising yourself, but by publishing on certain topics/subjects that you know a lot about. So people will start to see you as an authority on the subject. Make sure you add value in your emails and that those emails are worth the readers precious time. And try to follow up with real life meetings to strengthen the bond between you and your readers. If you don't meet them in person, to me it isn't networking, but building an email list (which can be beneficial as well, but is another subject).
On average it takes a year to reap the benefits from networking, but then it is like a virtual commission structure that keeps giving you revenue. Good luck with this adventure called networking :) and if you have additional questions, feel free to send me a message (can be a year from now as well).
And for a final thought: if you do network, you want to assure yourself that you are doing it the right way, otherwise you can spending a lot of time but getting no results. So if you don't get results within one year time, you are doing something wrong ;) and you should change your way of networking.