People often hate the idea of networking, either because they’re introverts by nature, they’re afraid of rejection, or they don’t want to seem pushy, self-absorbed, and disingenuous. Still, networking remains one of the most effective strategies for managing a successful career. In fact, 70% of Americans say they found their current job through their professional network — even though only 48% say they regularly keep in touch with their connections.
However, the tide is starting to turn. Many people are interested in strengthening their professional circles now, as the economy grows more uncertain. That’s why we decided to gather helpful networking tips. Specifically, we asked business leaders and recruiters these questions:
- How have you built and leveraged your professional network to advance your career?
- How has your network rewarded you with opportunities
- What advice would you share with others who want to level up their networking efforts?
In response, we found 10 excellent ideas from CEOs, recruiters, and other professionals. If you take a quick look, I’m sure you’ll find several suggestions that can help you achieve better results from your efforts:
- Nurture a “Trusted100” Network
- Make Room for Introversion in Networking
- Leverage Connections for Career Advancement
- Maintain Warm, Genuine Professional Relationships
- Emphasize Reciprocity as a Core Principle
- Create a Vibrant Community for Growth
- Expand Your Network Beyond Discrete Categories
- Be Clear and Specific in Networking
- Engage Actively on Social Media Platforms
- Share Knowledge Openly on LinkedIn
To learn more about how you can make the most of your professional network, read on to see how these ideas helped others level up…
10 Ways to Level Up Your Professional Network
1. Nurture a “Trusted100” Network
Throughout my career, I’ve intentionally nurtured a “Trusted100” circle of professional contacts, emphasizing genuine investment in each relationship for mutual growth.
Staying up-to-date with industry trends and actively participating in forums helped me present new opportunities to those in my network. I added value by sharing resources, making introductions, or providing important insights. In addition, by pursuing joint ventures such as co-authored articles or webinars, we enriched our shared expertise and strengthened our bond.
A notable moment was when one of my “Trusted100” contacts introduced me to a groundbreaking cloud-skilling project that unlocked access to 3,000 scholarships. This enhanced my professional journey, as well as that of others.
Networking is about quality, not quantity. Prioritize building high-trust relationships. Investing in others’ success can bring profound returns.
2. Make Room for Introversion in Networking
As an introvert, I took a different approach to building a professional network. This involved attending meet-ups and leveraging those forums to connect with new people. I seized the opportunity to step out of my comfort zone and participate in speaking engagements to increase visibility. For example, after I attended Mom 2.0 in May 2018, my network expanded, which ultimately led me to a cherished role at a tech company.
For fellow introverts, I recommend focusing on targeted connections. Seek out smaller gatherings or events where it’s possible to engage in meaningful one-on-one conversations, rather than having to navigate through a massive, bustling crowd.
Remember to keep networking and keep building your connections. A network is not just a safety net for job opportunities — it’s a source of support, knowledge, and growth. It opens doors to valuable insights, mentorship, and collaboration opportunities, even for introverts.
3. Leverage Connections for Career Advancement
I have never shied away from using my connections to help further my career. It started with an internship in college, which led my boss to introduce me to a former colleague who was in a leadership position in my hometown. That path inadvertently led me down a very roundabout career path.
In 2017, I interviewed with many potential employers. Several years later, an HR professional remembered me from our 2017 exchange and reached out to discuss a position he was trying to fill at a new company. I wasn’t looking for a new job. But it was early March 2020, and the world was changing right before our eyes. So I made the switch. Today, I’m still with that company and have advanced to a leadership position.
If you find a position that interests you and you know someone at that company, don’t hesitate to reach out and learn about the culture. Your connection can help determine if it’s a good fit, and perhaps recommend you. Even if the timing isn’t right at that moment, it could lead to an excellent opportunity in the future.
Take the chance. The reward could very well be worthwhile. You’ll never know unless you try.
4. Maintain Warm, Genuine Professional Relationships
One of the most effective ways I’ve advanced my career is by diligently maintaining my professional network. I make it a point to keep in touch with college peers and colleagues from previous jobs, often through social media updates and coffee meetings.
This approach has led to some incredible opportunities. For example, a former colleague contacted me about a job at his new company. Similarly, when a former classmate became an entrepreneur, that classmate became one of my clients.
My advice is simple for others looking to enhance their network outreach: Keep your professional relationships warm and genuine. Opportunities tend to come from places and people you least expect, and you never know who might be thinking of you when a new opportunity arises.
5. Emphasize Reciprocity as a Core Principle
Focus on forming genuine relationships with others in your industry. Stay connected by regularly checking in. And be ready to help whenever you can, because this builds reciprocity into your relationships.
Always show gratitude when others assist you — it goes a long way in maintaining positive relationships.
I found my current role after connecting with my current manager on LinkedIn. I reached out when I saw her post about a position she wanted to fill. And here I am, a year and a half later!
6. Create a Vibrant Community for Growth
Throughout my career journey, I’ve discovered a profound truth about networking: It’s not just about building a professional network, but about creating a vibrant community of individuals united by a shared vision of support and growth. I’ve experienced the immense power of this principle firsthand.
By creating intentional, value-driven relationships, I had the privilege of being nominated as the G100 Mission Million South Carolina Chair for Startup Ecosystems. This honor was a testament to the potential of developing authentic connections.
Embrace the art of forging meaningful bonds. This truly is the key to unlocking opportunities you can’t even imagine at this moment in time!
7. Expand Your Circle Beyond Discrete Categories
A surprising number of recruiters fail to keep in touch with candidates after they’re placed. We tend to be busy with responding to new contracts, so once an initial trial period has passed, we move on.
If you’re selling a product, you may do the same with customers. You may see them solely as buyers, rather than members of your professional network. But when you place someone in a narrow category, you’re likely to overlook the full potential of that relationship.
Recently, a candidate I placed 10 years ago reached out to me. She was launching a business and needed my services. Since we’d stayed in touch long after her placement, I was top-of-mind when she needed to hire resources of her own. This teaches an important lesson not to limit your network. A more expansive perspective can lead to opportunities you wouldn’t otherwise expect.
8. Be Clear and Specific in Networking
I landed a job abroad through the power of networking. After a few sluggish months of online job applications in my desired country, I proactively reached out to my contacts in that location. I clearly expressed my career goals, leaving no room for ambiguity about the kind of role I was pursuing.
A few weeks later, a recruiter contacted me directly, all thanks to referrals from my contacts. The recruiter recommended a role that perfectly aligned with my career aspirations. This enabled me to move abroad while advancing my career.
This experience holds a valuable lesson for anyone looking to level up their network outreach, especially in the pursuit of new opportunities. The key is to be straightforward and specific. Rather than relying on vague prompts like, “Let me know if something comes up,” make it known exactly what you’re aiming for.
Being clear amplifies the effectiveness of your outreach tenfold. The clearer you are, the easier it is for your connections to match you with the right opportunities.
9. Engage Actively on Social Media Platforms
I’ve found many career opportunities through my network. In fact, that’s how I discovered my current role as a physician’s assistant. A person I met during residency mentioned on social media that their employer was actively searching for PAs when I was looking for a job.
My advice for others who want to use their network as a career-building tool is to stay active and engaged with your professional contacts on social media platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter.
Any time you meet other people in your industry at networking events, conferences, or in the course of your day-to-day job, always look for them on social sites and add them as contacts. Not all of them will be active on social media, but you won’t know until you search for them. And those who are active can be an excellent source of industry knowledge, as well as career advancement opportunities.
10. Share Knowledge Openly on LinkedIn
I built my personal brand on LinkedIn and spent the last two years sharing everything I know and have learned with my audience. The more I’ve connected with like-minded folks on the platform, the more opportunities I’ve received each week.
So, my best advice would be to not hoard knowledge but share it openly with the world. You never know if someone on the other side is looking for someone with the kind of knowledge and expertise you’re prepared to share.