Building a business is a herculean task that stretches even the most skilled of multitaskers, and that means networking can often fall by the wayside. But establishing a strong network isn't an optional extra—it can be the key to your professional growth as an entrepreneur. For business connections, professional development, and even mentorship, a strong network can be the catalyst that launches you to the next level of success.
We asked four entrepreneurs how they built their networks, and here are the tips they shared.
Pursue learning opportunities
My mother always tells me, "you learn every day." That training and openness to knowing more helps me find, attract, engage, and connect with men and women who share knowledge, resources, and access designed to help me be better. All of that energizes me to share and help others experience the same thing. Attracting people who are in alignment with your values is one of the ways to tap into your leadership, who you mentor or who mentors you, and where you draw advice, wisdom, and insight from. – Yetunde Shorters
Lifelong learning isn't just for self-improvement—it can also be part of your career growth strategy. The pursuit of learning opportunities has the potential to connect you with others who share your interests. Those can develop into deep professional relationships that can encourage a new way of thinking or give you access to new resources.
Consider registering for an online course on a platform like Thinkific, and share your learning journey with your existing network. Some courses include communities where you can interact with other learners, sharing your insights as you build connections. Or you could start or join a Slack community where people can discuss and share resources about marketing, entrepreneurship, or anything else that interests you. You could even launch a discussion group where you invite others to read and discuss a shared book about leadership or productivity.
When you seek out opportunities for learning and professional development, it gives you a foot in the door of an entire community of people who share your interests and have the same drive to grow.
Looking to learn a new skill? Here are Zapier's top 10 strategies for learning new skills.
Be intentional with the platforms you support
I look for a network that speaks to my morals, stands for equality, expands my mentality, and supports my desired goals. – Shamieka Dean
Partner with the tools, platforms, and communities that resonate most with your values and business needs. By supporting the brands who champion the same things you do, you'll be more likely to find connections who are able to support you too.
There are a bunch of ways you can support other brands and communities. Host your courses on their platform, use their tools, attend their events, shout them out on social media.
Test the social media waters—then prune your feed
I've invested in programs with leaders who I knew could steer me in the right direction. My advice is to test the waters! Follow people on social media, subscribe to their newsletters, engage where you can. You will find an authentic connection and pull to those who are the right mentors and coaches for you.
That's the beauty of social media! You're able to find people of all walks of life who do the things you want to and beyond. I have so many mentors that I've never met! I've been mentored by the content and journey of many entrepreneurs online. I glean insight from their videos, newsletters, and courses. – Kyshira Moffett
Social media isn't just for social networking—it's for professional networking too. Through a well-placed like, comment, follow, or friend request, you can connect with new folks around the world. And as Kyshira notes, it's not just about connecting with people but also connecting with their content.
Join a Facebook group with other entrepreneurs. You might choose one with entrepreneurs in your city to spark in-person networking opportunities, or maybe an international one filled with business leaders in the same industry. Connect with LinkedIn communities that overlap with your areas of interest, or engage in Twitter threads with fellow industry pros.
The main thing here is to be authentic and selective. It's important to connect widely, engage enthusiastically, and build lots of strong connections. But while it's tempting to hit "subscribe all" in an online ocean of resources, communities, and newsletters, you should choose carefully.
You have only so many hours in the day; to get the best wisdom and most actionable insights, spend your time absorbing content from people and brands who directly align with your goals. Hit unfollow on those forgettable influencers cluttering up your feed and filling your inbox with emails you never read, so you can make space for the thought leaders who really add value to you and your business.
Give more than you take
I've focused on building my own platform so that I can become an opportunity. – Shamieka Dean
Sometimes building a network requires giving more than you take. Become what you want to receive from others by seizing opportunities to share your knowledge and expertise.
Develop and share helpful resources through your online platforms. You might find that people follow you to learn more, or return the favor by sharing similar resources with you. When you create opportunities for conversation and engagement, you invite others to join your broader network.
Be a connector
As a woman of color business owner, I have been impacted by other entrepreneurs in the way we support each other. We share the same struggles and hurdles so often we make it a point to support each other because we know how hard it is to get support from everyone else. – Morgan Owens
If you're looking to build your newtork, that means other folks are too. Look for opportunities to support your peers: you might give them some love on social platforms, share their resources on your own feed (tagged, of course!), or attend their events. You can even help your contacts make more direct connections by introducing people you know who will benefit professionally from each other. By stepping up as a career-development matchmaker, you'll strengthen your existing network and likely find new connections along the way.
The bottom line: building your network is not always about you. Think about how you can create solutions for everyone you meet, and you'll build a strong organic network of people who can attest to the value you bring to the space.
Attend the right events
Ways that I network with to find other leaders to provide wisdom and insight is to attend events such as Think in Color and other opportunities for like-minded Women of Color in business. – Morgan Owens
No matter your industry, there are a host of conferences, trade shows, and panel events tailored to your interests. From virtual meet-ups to local gatherings, there's no shortage of networking opportunities at your fingertips.
Before you head to your event, here's how to make the most of a business conference.
Of course, this doesn't mean handing out business cards at every random networking event. For the best return on your time, pursue the events that align with your values, current needs, and business strategy. It can be draining to go to event after event, so be sure you're picking the opportunities that have the most to offer for your specific goals.
This was a guest post from Jenny Scribani, Content Marketer at Thinkific. Want to see your work on the Zapier blog? Check out our guidelines and get in touch.