How to network

Read our beginners' guide to networking and discover ways to reach out today.

What you will learn

  • About the benefits of networking
  • How to use your networks effectively
  • How to plan what you want to get from your network
  • How to use social media to your benefit

Networking can provide a range of benefits, including the exchange of knowledge, resources and ideas that can take your career to the next level, help gain valuable sector insights and also make friendships/connections along the way.

Networking can come in many different forms: meeting people one-on-one, having a regular video call with a mentor or peer (more now than ever), attending industry events or connecting via social media - such as LinkedIn. Similarly, networking can take place at work, in a meeting or at a social outing.

 

Benefits of networking

Any situation that involves interaction with other people poses an opportunity for expanding a professional network. Here are some key benefits of expanding your network.

Advance your career

Being visible and getting noticed is a benefit of networking that’s essential in career building. Regularly attending professional and social events will help to get your face known. You can then help to build your reputation as being knowledgeable, reliable and supportive by offering useful information or tips to people who need it.

Get access to job opportunities

Expanding your contacts can open doors to new opportunities for business, career advancement, personal growth, or simply new knowledge. Active networking helps to keep you top of mind when opportunities such as job openings arise and increases your likelihood of receiving introductions to potentially relevant people or even a referral.

Get career advice & support

Gaining the advice of experienced peers is an important benefit of networking. Discussing common challenges and opportunities opens the door to valuable suggestions and guidance. Offering genuine assistance to your contacts also sets a strong foundation for receiving support in return when you need it.

Build confidence

By continually putting yourself out there and meeting new people, you’re effectively stepping outside your comfort zone and building invaluable social skills and self-confidence that you can take with you anywhere. The more you network, the more you’ll grow and learn how to make lasting connections.

Develop long-lasting personal relationships

The point of networking is to develop professional relationships, but some of the strongest and most long-standing friendships come from work connections. Your networking contacts are probably like-minded people with similar goals as your own.

Find a job you love

Professional networking opens many doors in the form of career advice, lasting relationships and even landing your dream role. You never know who might be hiring for your ideal job, or know someone who is, and the more people you have in your network, the likelier you are to be the first to know when those big job opportunities pop up.

How to network

As much as networking is beneficial to your career and even your personal life, the reality is that it doesn’t come naturally to many people. In fact, for some, the thought of starting a conversation with a stranger at a conference or event incites downright dread.


A good rule of thumb is to plan ahead and have a few relevant points of discussion in mind if you know you’re going to be in a situation where you’ll have the opportunity to meet new people. These conversation points don’t have to be all about work – they can even be about topics like hobbies or the event itself.

The idea is to get the conversation flowing and leave room for future meetups and discussions. On that note, don’t forget to bring business cards so you can swap details easily.

Follow these 5 steps to networking

  1. Be a good guest

    Be friendly and open when you speak, if you see someone sitting alone, go and say hello.

  2. Talk and listen

    At networking events you need to talk to people! – but you’ve also got to be a good listener, otherwise you won’t know whether that person is the right person for you to be talking to and connect with. You can practise this on team meetings or even just with friends and family over dinner for example.

  3. Take business cards/CV or LinkedIn

    At networking events there is a lot of exchanging of business cards – when talking to someone, exchange business cards or CV so that they have a way of contacting you, or connect with them directly on LinkedIn at the event.

  4. Note everything down

    Keep a pen and notebook handy or note things on your phone or tablet, especially names, job titles and dates of contacts. If you keep a written record of who you’ve spoken to and their line of business, along with a few details it will help you remember what they do and jog your memory in the future.

  5. Give referrals

    This will help you to make good business connections as your contacts will remember you as the referrer.

Establish goals

Before you start looking for people and events to network with, you need to determine your goals.


Trying to find a new job is a good starting point, but it shouldn’t be the only goal. A good networking plan can help you develop your technical skills, improve your ability to communicate, create relationships with potential customers or clients, build your reputation within your field, and more.


Determine who in your industry is most likely to be in a position to help you reach your goals — then prioritise and establish those relationships.

 

Research and schedule networking events

There are numerous networking events in every field, and they come in a variety of different formats. You might consider finding conferences or conventions that are popular among people in your field, attending talks. Social media especially LinkedIn is a good resource for finding events, plus check out Meetup and Eventbrite for networking events.


Research who has been to the event before and take note of people you are wanting to network and connect with, also have a look at the feedback online to see if there is any additional information you can gather here. Always make sure the networking event can fit around you, many are during business hours but some are also after 5, select ones which best fit you.


Due to COVID-19 the majority are online via webinars. These are usually recorded and put online so this can be a great way to catch up with what has been said and connect on social media. Keep your eyes on LinkedIn groups and Facebook events and attend the ones that are of interest to you.

Some other articles you may find helpful

Linked In: How to get started

The future is digital – including your CV. Read our guide to building your profile from scratch.

How to get a job through networking

Networking isn’t just formal – find out how different networks of people can help you get your next job.

Top 10 ways to overcome a fear of networking

Reaching out and presenting your best self to new people can feel daunting. But there are ways to help you prepare to put your best foot forward.