How to Build an Influential Network

By the SMU Social Media Team

So, you’ve spent years pursuing a higher education, honing practical skillsets and slowly building your portfolio. With stellar grades, the right credentials and tons of relevant experience to show for, surely you’re all set up for success, right?

While that’s possibly half the battle won, there’s a missing element—that’s becoming increasingly important—in this equation. And that’s connectivity with the right crowd.

As the saying goes, “it’s not what you know but who you know”. While qualifications and experience are highly valued, having a vast network drastically tips the scale in your favour.

Whether you’re exploring new career options or looking for investors to support your new start-up, a wide network opens doors of opportunities and access that’s only granted to those in the know.

Not sure where to start? Let us clue you in with these quick tips:


Put yourself out there 

If you’re one of those who avoid networking or social functions like the plaque, it’s time to step out of your comfort zone. Building an influential network is not something you can leave to chance and hope for the best.    Make it a point to join professional associations, clubs or alumni groups, and be an active participant. You’ll get to meet new contacts, gain professional insights and raise your profile.


Be open to diversity 

It’s natural to want to mingle with people in the same profession, industry or age group. After all, you don’t have to look hard to find common ground. However, if you really want to expand your circle and connect with others, don’t limit yourself to a narrowly defined group.

Be open to starting conversations with people from diverse backgrounds and take the opportunity to learn more about a different industry or profession, for example. You may gain new perspectives that can help to propel your career.


Don’t judge a book by its cover 



Don’t just zoom into the big kahunas that everyone is scrambling to meet. Take each networking session as a chance to meet new friends and find out more about them on a professional or personal level.

Heard of six degrees of separation? You never know who your new contact is linked to. One connection could lead to another and before you know it, you could be introduced to the client you’ve been trying to get in touch with or the hiring manager of that coveted job!


Connect and keep in touch 



You got out of your comfort zone, blazed the social circuit and collected a Rolodex full of name cards. Then what? Building an influential network is not about getting as many name cards as possible. It’s all about establishing relationships.

All relationships take time and effort to grow. After you’ve taken the first step to establishing contact, make sure that you follow up with an email or an invite to have coffee within a day or two. This simple gesture shows you value your new contact and wish to further develop the connection.


Be a valuable asset to others 



Met a new contact and think that his business could potentially help solve the problem that another contact is facing? Why not link them up?

Always think of how you can add value to your network. Whether it’s introducing them to potential clients or providing feedback on their latest projects, people will appreciate your help. But be genuine about it without expecting any reciprocation. It’s easy to spot when someone has an ulterior motive.