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How to build a professional business network

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Having a professional network is essential if you want to get ahead in business: here are some tips to help you build yours

In today’s hyper-connected world, being able to find a job in an increasingly competitive market is all about making yourself heard. Given that 85% of jobs are filled via networking, the ability to connect with other people and raise your profile within your industry could be the difference between landing the dream job or hiring the dream candidate and missing out. Whether you’re working in finance or insurance, looking to hire or be hired, taking the time to cultivate a professional business network is beneficial for yourself and for others in the business community. 

Whether through face-to-face contact or online, here’s how to build a network that will really make you stand out.

Learn from the best

One of the best ways to learn how to network is by finding out how the professionals do it. There is a wealth of material online, some of it written by people whose job it is to make connections and be influential for a living, such as insurance heavyweight Mark Geoghegan. From published books to online speeches, finding out how they’ve become hugely respected names in their respective industries is a good way to learn what approach you should be taking yourself when it comes to building your own network.

Take inspiration from Sree Sreenivasan, who turned the loss of his job at the Metropolitan Museum of Art into a networking opportunity like no other. The digital expert took to Facebook to explain his situation, offer his services and company to friends and connections, and most importantly, promote his work and skills. The post was a huge success (amassing one thousand likes on Facebook alone), leading to Sreenivasan publicly documenting his job search and networking journey. He’s now Chief Digital Officer for New York City, so it’s fair to say that his networking paid off.

Get analytical

In a world where39% of people socialise more online than in person, social media is no longer optional: it’s necessary, and the key to becoming more visible is knowing what engages people. Creating profiles on sites like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn will let you reach a vast number of industry people. The vast majority of recruiters use social media to source new candidates (92% of recruiters use it during their recruitment process, according to a 2015 Jobvite survey), so it pays to ensure your public accounts are presenting you in the best and most professional light possible. This means hiding old and embarrassing photos on Facebook, listing your most recent and important career developments on LinkedIn and tightening up security on any posts you wouldn’t want a potential employer to see.

Get involved with analytics: monitoring the engagements that your posts receive across social media will let you know which approach is working and which isn’t; indeed, add-ons such as LinkedIn for Business will let you more closely monitor others and keep abreast of what’s happening in the industry. It even lets you see which kind of people view your post, letting you break down your engagement by job titles, companies and even location. 

Be a good influence

One of the main reasons people gain followers on social media or, indeed, in real life is because they share material that other people consider to be helpful. So be informative: share your ideas, your expertise and the experience that you’ve gained over your working life, along with relevant blogs or articles that not only show your interest in a subject, but also might spark up conversation with others in your network. Become a connector by bringing people together who can help each other, and making introductions, you’ll not only build a reputation for yourself but become somebody that other people want to get to know better.

Join groups

The most important aspect of networking is knowing how to contact the right people, and one of the best ways to do this is to join industry groups on social media networks like LinkedIn and Facebook: for instance, the LinkedIn group Leadership for Lawyers is a great way for lawyers to find like-minded people. Make yourself heard: join discussions, and try contacting people directly. Don’t be afraid to ask people for advice, or to make introductions for you: you’ll get an answer from them more often than not! 

Attend events

Networking isn’t just about being active online, however: there are plenty of ways in which you can make connections in the real world, too. Networking events are important if you want to meet people face to face-75% of business people say they prefer in-person business meetings because it gives them the chance to bond with co-workers or clients. Take advantage of the face-to-face contact to get to know some new people. Industry organisations such as the CII, Financial Services Forum or The Law Society also regularly host events, often with influential guest speakers, so go along to soak up some knowledge and take the opportunity to talk to like-minded people.

Get connected with IDEX

The key to building a successful, professional business network is about getting involved. Whether it’s through targeting the right networking groups on LinkedIn or attending industry events, becoming active and making the effort will let you connect with people, both online and in person, and find a myriad of job opportunities. Don’t wait for them to pass you by: build your network and go find them. 

If you’re looking for job opportunities, there’s no better connection to make than with IDEX: with a range of specialist advisors in finance, insurance and legal, we can help to you take the next step in your career. Browse our range of jobs here, and contact us here.