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Networking Demystified: 4 Steps to Building a Professional Network

Emma White | July 25, 2022

Networking can seem like a mystery.

Some people do it so naturally, it seems effortless; for others, it’s a daunting challenge they can barely begin, let alone master. But pros and novices alike are aligned on one simple point: Networking is an essential part of professional success.

Effective networking is a skill that can be learned and, over time, developed.

To help you get started, we’ve collected a few tips that let even the greenest of networkers build a varied and effective professional network.

Get your business cards ready, practice your handshake and let’s create a network that really works!

1. Begin with people you know

For professionals just dipping their toes into the networking waters, a great first step is to reach out to people you’re already comfortable with. These can include current and former co-workers, supervisors, classmates or teachers.

Explain you’re developing your network, and see if they can offer advice or introductions to others they think you should get to know. Speaking with people you already share a rapport with is also a good opportunity to practice connection-building skills in a friendly, low-stress environment.

2. Initiate contact

Once you’ve identified someone who might be a positive professional connection, it’s time to get in touch. Even if the gain isn’t immediately obvious, having contacts across a variety of industries may prove useful down the road.

If there’s something you both relate to, that’s common ground on which a networking relationship can be built. It could be a shared goal, a passion or even a hobby. Your first contact could take the form of scheduling to meet for coffee, exchanging emails or just connecting on social media.

3. Focus on the quality of your interactions

With a little curiosity and a few simple questions, you might be surprised at how easily you can make meaningful connections in almost any situation. When you meet with someone you’d like to network with, don’t limit yourself to small talk.

Asking questions about their work and their insights on current industry issues makes them feel valued and leaves them with a positive impression of your interaction. People may not always remember what you say, but they’ll remember how you make them feel.

4. A little gratitude goes a long way

Small gestures can make a big difference in building positive connections. When it comes to networking, these gestures don’t need to be elaborate or formal. Something as simple as a handwritten note or a text expressing gratitude for your initial experience would suffice.

Remember tip 3, that people remember how you make them feel? The same goes here, so don’t underestimate appreciation as part of your networking strategy, especially as you work to deepen those connections.

As you implement these simple steps, don’t be surprised if you find your networking comfort zone begins expanding as fast as the list of like-minded pros you can reach out to in the future. You soon may become a vital part of someone else’s network!

For more tips and insights on professional development, check out these posts here at the Paycom Careers blog.

About the author
Author picture, Emma White
Emma White
As an employer brand marketer at Paycom, Emma White helps broaden the employer brand and increase brand awareness. Emma is a recent graduate of Oklahoma State University, where she earned degrees in marketing and management. Her work on Paycom’s recruitment marketing team includes company culture, careers and social media content. Outside work, Emma's hobbies include art, reading, exploring new places in OKC and spending time with friends.