Professional networking has become a prerequisite for success in today’s workforce.

Humans are more connected than ever, and discovering attractive business opportunities heavily revolves around who you know. But there’s an art to the process of professional networking.

Of course, networking can be explored in extensive detail, but for now we’ve identified the following tips as some of the most important. At brunchwork,* we know a thing or two about networking — we’ve been running top-rated professional networking experiences for years.

No matter where you are in your career, these are critical pointers for professional networking like a pro:

  • Embrace the Hustle
  • Focus on Value Exchange
  • Be Strategic With Your Asks
  • Leverage Social Media
  • Take a Course That Fosters Networking

Let’s first start with some background and reminders as to why professional networking is of peak importance for any thriving career today.

Why Professional Networking Is So Important

In a lot of ways, professional networking is like compound interest. Over time, your network expands on itself, becoming ever more valuable in the process. You may not be in a position to cash in on that value today, but it will certainly pay dividends at some point in the future.

Whether it be a request for a recommendation, a testimonial, a reference, or even searching for a potential business partner, your professional network is often your best starting point. So it follows that the wider and healthier your network, the more potential for career success.

We believe professional networking should be a focus for anyone in the business world, or anyone with aspirations to join the workforce. No matter your level of experience or seniority, the logic remains the same: The more people you know, the more opportunities you’ll have.

Circumstance will likely dictate the amount of immediate attention you give to networking. Those early in their careers might be extra eager to start building the first nodes of their network. Or, someone looking to switch jobs might have more reason to send out some feelers to their professional connections. Just remember that no matter your circumstance, the best networkers are always making connections — we see them in action as brunchwork members!

5 Tips for Professional Networking Like a Pro

There’s no shortage of ways to network effectively. But for starters, here are five of our favorite tips for professional networking like a pro.

1. Embrace the Hustle

Mindset is everything, and professional networking is a hustle. You could spend hours reaching out to 20-plus people only to get a response from one. Or it might take four follow up messages before finally hearing from someone, then another three messages with their assistant to schedule a coffee date.

It’s not always a glamorous experience. People are busy, not everyone is willing to help, and some may just never see your attempts to get in touch. The key is not to get discouraged — professional networking is a long-term game that takes persistence.

Our mission at brunchwork is to fit networking and learning into your routine. Our programming is almost always on the weekends to accommodate busy professionals. We aim to make networking as enjoyable as possible by curating smart and thoughtful individuals, and creating a delightful atmosphere in beautiful settings.

2. Focus on Value Exchange

One of the most effective approaches to professional networking is to look at every relationship as a two-way street. It’s your job to find ways to add value to your professional relationships and there are always ways to do so.

Even in relationships where you have much less expertise or knowledge, you can get creative with the value you bring to the table. For example, maybe you stumble across a great article that a professional connection would want to read. That’s adding value! In this example, the simple act of forwarding an article could be your way of making sure it’s not just a one-way relationship.

3. Be Strategic With Your Asks

This is a key follow up to the above tip. Throughout your career, you’ll have moments where it makes sense to more directly leverage your network. For example, you might want an introduction to a hiring manager at a new company, or maybe you want advice on how to interview well at a competitive startup.

There are a handful of things to ask yourself and consider before making these asks. Here’s a shortlist:

  • Is this really the right person to ask?

  • Have they been receptive to asks like this?
  • Have I leaned on this connection too heavily recently?
  • Is there anything I can do to provide value before/after I ask?

  • Should I ask them for help or rather for an introduction to someone else?

When it comes to professional networking, it rarely pays to be shy. But discretion is important. You don’t want to be the node in someone’s network who only takes and never gives.

4. Leverage Social Media

Social media changed the game for professional networking. LinkedIn is a fantastic place to start finding people you know, but it’s one piece to the networking puzzle. It probably shouldn’t be your entire networking machine, but it’s a great tool for finding colleagues, “adding them” to your network, and nurturing those relationships over time.

We recommend freshening up your profile, and connecting with old and new colleagues, and searching 2nd and 3rd degree connections.

Twitter is another platform for your professional networking toolbox. You can discover like-minded individuals and build relationships — all while building up your personal brand.

5. Take a Course That Fosters Networking

Sometimes it helps to have a community, or a shared experience, to build great professional networking connections. A full MBA program can be very expensive and time consuming; luckily, there are plenty of MBA alternatives.

Take, for example, a mini MBA course alongside motivated, like-minded professionals. Mini MBAs have recently exploded onto the scene and offer amazing opportunities to build rich professional networks. brunchwork’s Business Intensive course (rated the top mini MBA on Forbes) is the epitome of such programs, and its focus on professional networking makes it a standout winner.