Quickly Improve Your Professional Network in 5 Easy Steps
8 min read

Quickly Improve Your Professional Network in 5 Easy Steps

The ultimate networking resource of 5 simple activities you can do to create a valuable and thriving professional network in less time.
Quickly Improve Your Professional Network in 5 Easy Steps

Networking is like magic. It can turn around your career trajectory and transform your professional life. If you don’t believe me, here is some proof:

  • 85% of jobs are filled through networking
  • 56% of people find their job through a personal connection
  • 80% of jobs aren’t published, yet a vast amount of people job hunting spend most of their time searching for jobs on the internet rather than venturing outside and talking to employers

Yet 25% of professionals across all levels of experience have admitted that they don’t network at all. Why then, if networking works like magic, do so few people actually put consistent effort into it?

Let’s leave that down to one of life’s mysteries and help get your network back on track with these five high-impact activities:

  • Complete an Audit of Your Network
  • Craft an Effective Networking Strategy
  • Create Your Networking Plan
  • Rapidly Boost Your Network
  • Implement Systems to Nurture Your Network

There’s no better time than the present, let’s get started.

Quick Actionable Tips

If you only have a few minutes to spare, here's the top 5 networking ideas professionals should consider executing right now:

  • Create a list of the top 5-10 people you currently know who could help you with introductions to new jobs and opportunities, if you needed them immediately. These are the most important people in your network. If you do nothing else, make sure you stay friendly with them, share with them and keep them close.
  • Spend time thinking about your career so that you deeply understand your short-term career goals and long-term career direction (this only has to be broad brush strokes). It’s so important that you can set networking goals and determine actions that align to them, otherwise your networking efforts might be terribly inefficient.
  • Have an actionable networking plan in place that tightly aligns your networking goals to the relationships you will spend time nurturing and the people you will make new connections with. If you then chunk down these people and associated networking activities by priority groups, you can attack your networking plan step-by-step.
  • There are steps you can take right now to build your network, and these are easy to do, you just need to do them. Shoot off an email to a new connection, text or call an old colleague, like right now. That’s all networking is, making the effort to do these things.
  • It can be easy to forget to spend time nurturing your existing network, we all know the common excuses. That’s why you should put networking on autopilot by creating a system of reminders and email appointments to spend time networking. Consistency is everything.

Read on for the full list, if you’re leaving now, before you go you should sign up for free and I’ll send you updates.

Complete an Audit of Your Network

Complete these two simple steps to get an idea of the current state of your professional and business network. This way you’ll know what you’re building from. Should only take 10 minutes, here they are:

  • Imagine you got laid off today. Who are the 5-10 people you’d contact for advice? Make sure to invest in those relationships regularly, not just when you have an urgent need.
  • Look at the 5 to 10 people you’ve spent the most time with in the last 3-months. Are you happy with the way they’re influencing you? If so, find another person who belongs in that group and invest in that relationship. If not, change the way you’re spending your time.

Now we know where we’re starting, let’s build.

Craft an Effective Networking Strategy

What’s involved in creating a networking strategy?

Primarily it is about defining your direction and then deciding which resources to allocate to that direction.

Networking works best when it is organised and all efforts are pointed towards your goal. Use this simple list of questions to help create your own networking strategy. Brew some coffee, get a paper and pen or open a new document and take a few moments to answer these questions:

  • What is my specific career focus?
  • What are some additional areas I would like to investigate?
  • In the next three years, what is my short term career goal?
  • In the next 5-10 years, what is my long term career goal?
  • What is working in my network?
  • What is not working in my network?
  • Does my current network align to my short and long-term career goals?
  • Where am I under-invested and where am I over invested?
  • Given my career goals, what kinds of people should be in my network?

Now reflect and revise as needed. This is your direction. It represents where your network is headed. Now it’s time to execute.

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Create Your Networking Plan

Your network is just as important as your qualifications, skills and experience. Many would argue that it’s more important. Just as you consider and plan how to develop your qualifications, skills and experience, you also need to have a plan for networking too.

If you don’t you are in danger of the type of ad-hoc networking activities that end up in a random collection of unhelpful connections. While these might be valuable personal relationships that you should keep and nurture, that’s not the explicit goal here.

Networking is about generating new leads, deepening connections with existing contacts and learning useful information about your field. Otherwise it’s not networking. This upside is that because so few people do it, strategic networking could give you an edge over the competition.

Here are 6 steps to create a networking plan

Step 1: Decide why you need the network (i.e. your direction). Is it for developing your career or business contacts? Are you trying to find out more about an industry or organisation? Are you looking for support with regard to your trade or seeking sponsorship? You could be wanting to create a team of experts or bond with your existing team. This is similar to crafting your networking strategy, but it is important your plan links to your strategy.

Define your networking goals and prioritise them.

Step 2: Once you’ve determined your networking goals, work out how you are going to spend your time. Should you focus on cementing existing relationships or developing new ones? Should you prioritise internal relationships within your organization, or external contacts?

Determine your networking priority areas, or where you will build.

Step 3: Make a list of people who can help you achieve your goals, within your priority areas. This could include:

  • Current colleagues
  • Former colleagues
  • Coaches or mentors
  • Customers
  • Suppliers
  • Friends and family
  • Industry specialists
  • Subject matter experts
  • Recruiters and headhunters
  • Clubs or membership organisations

Make a list of the people you already know, and the people you should get to know that align to your career goals.

Step 4: Take the total list and divide it into existing and new contacts. You’ll need to nurture existing connections and make and nurture the new ones. To achieve this without it being too daunting, you should divide the number into manageable groups by setting a target number of contacts for each of your short, medium and long-term career or business goals.

Create groups of connections to keep and make.

Step 5: Decide the best way to connect with people. Will you make contact on LinkedIn, over email or in person? Before you start, make sure to:

  • Get your social media profiles up to date and suitable for making professional connections.
  • Find out about real life and online communities you are interested in.
  • Investigate the work functions, conferences and events that will enable you to develop your network in person.

Determine the actions needed to build your target network.

Step 6: Plan your moves. How will you present yourself? Have you got a 60-second pitch? What can you offer your potential contacts? What questions will you ask about them? Make sure that at each introduction you know what you are going to say to that individual and that it aligns with your particular goal. The approach should be different for each connection, designed to align to their personality, needs and desires.

Create a tailored pitch for each connection and execute it.

Be prepared for this plan to change and develop over time. You must decide which relationships should be prioritised and strengthened and which ones simply need to be maintained or which ones should be forgotten about.

Your network is key to the success of your career so make sure you have a plan, and don’t waste any more time procrastinating.

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Rapidly Boost Your Network

Here is a simple 5 step networking plan that you can use to start networking today. Write down some ideas for each of these areas:

  1. Create a list of people to connect with. For example, Susan  who works in HR, Tony who goes to my church.
  2. Create a list of organizations to join. For example, industry associations or local market-based communities.
  3. Find quick ways to grow your network. For example, right now you could ask friends for referrals, tomorrow you can start introducing myself to others you know who work in your industry.
  4. Plan one lunch this week, spend two hours this week making email connections and staying in touch with friends by text. Attend one industry event this month.
  5. Find a way to keep yourself accountable. For example, put a recurring calendar invite to yourself in your diary to review and revise your strategy once per month and review your progress towards your goals.

Now it’s time for you to take action.

Implement Systems to Nurture Your Network

Don't treat your network like your winter coat and store it away in an old wardrobe for the summer, only to fish it back out when it starts getting colder and you think you’ll need it.

Networking is a year round activity. Your network is a living ecosystem of human connections that must be nurtured and kept alive. The last thing you want is to get in touch with someone who doesn't remember you or to miss out on a great opportunity because your contact who knows about it doesn't think of you.

Make plans to get together with any connections with whom you have, or had, a personal relationship. For example, be intentional about staying in touch with former coworkers. If they aren't local, make sure there's a standing invitation to meet up with them if they are ever in your city.

Be systematic about this. Create a simple system by adding reminders to your phone or invitations to your email calendar that alert you to:

  • Get in touch with connections a few times a year.
  • Send birthday and holiday wishes to important connections.
  • Reach out when you have valuable information to share.

Creating this simple system might be the most important thing you take from this entire post. It’s a super powerful way to stay on top of your network.

Key Takeaway

Beware: 99% of time spent networking is wasted, and only 1% of the effort proves to be worthwhile. You need to make the moves required to get into 1%, because the rewards can be immense.

This can be achieved by doing these five activities:

  1. Regularly auditing your network
  2. Crafting a networking strategy to set your direction and goals
  3. Creating a plan that links you activities to your goals
  4. Regularly working on building your network
  5. Implementing a simple system to regularly engage your network

Do these activities and you’ll never call networking a waste of time again, and you’ll be in the top 10% of professionals with a thriving network that creates value for you time and time again.

Before you go: I have interviewed 500+ professionals, surveyed thousands more, and I am always probing for their best tips, tricks and hacks to get ahead. There are five that stand out above the rest and you can get them right now by joining my free email list. You won’t find these ideas anywhere else.