When we hear the word “networking,” many of us picture crowded public events filled with people wearing name tags, shaking hands, and waiting for the ideal moment to say: “Here’s my business card. Let’s connect.”

But networking involves so much more than one-off exchanges or formal events.

Networking is the process of building and maintaining real, ongoing relationships.
It requires connecting with people from all walks of life and in all types of venues.

Check off each box below once you understand the who, what, when, where, and why of professional networking.

  • Who. You never know who’s behind a great opportunity—or who someone knows. So, network with people both within and outside of your industry. Among others, that list includes former classmates and teachers, coworkers and supervisors, personal acquaintances, and people from your gym, volunteer groups, and community.
  • What. Professional networking is about creating and preserving authentic business relationships. These relationships are built on trust, and they’re mutually beneficial—meaning you should help your contacts just as much as they help you.
  • When. Networking doesn’t have an “off” switch. It’s an ongoing process that requires consistently meeting new people, building relationships, and nurturing old connections. So, whether you’re happily employed or actively seeking something new, there’s never a wrong time to network.
  • Where. While networking events are a great place to start, you’re not limited to those venues—and you certainly shouldn’t stop there. You can also form and maintain contacts while waiting in line for coffee, chatting on social media, meeting people for lunch, or attending sporting events. There are opportunities everywhere.
  • Why. Create and maintain a strong network, and you’ll have a community of support by your side. Your network can then connect you with others, introduce you to opportunities, offer guidance, and propel your professional goals forward.

Think of your professional network like a close circle of friends. While the relationships are of a business nature, they’re still genuine relationships—meaning, they require a degree of give-and-take and ongoing nurturing.

Why Networking Is Important

Because networking requires consistent work, it might not be at the top of your to-do list. You might be thinking: “I can get by on my own,” “I don’t need help,” or “My calendar is already packed.” But networking isn’t something you should push aside.

Establish a strong network—and invest in those relationships—and you’ll open the door to several professional benefits.

Select the + buttons below to learn why networking is important.

Should you decide to change jobs, your network can help you nail down a new position. Here’s how that happens:

  1. You’ll be the first to know. Not all job opportunities are advertised immediately. Sometimes, companies hold off on sharing the news. Create a strong network, however, and you’ll be the first to know—which increases your chances of landing the role.
  2. You’ll get the inside scoop. Research only tells you so much. Know someone who has experience at a company, and you’ll gain insider knowledge—knowledge that you can use to customize your cover letter and interview answers.
  3.  You’ll get a recommendation. Often, employers prefer hiring candidates who are referred by a trusted source. So, if you know someone at a company and come recommended, you’re more likely to get the job.

As you increase your visibility through networking, you’ll cross paths with experts who you look up to and admire. Connect with those people—and form genuine relationships with them—and they’ll become a powerful resource.

When faced with a career challenge, you can reach out to these seasoned professionals, have an open discussion, and gain much-needed guidance and mentorship from someone who’s “been there and done that.”

When it comes to social confidence, practice makes perfect—and nothing gives you more practice than networking.

As you continue putting yourself out there, meeting new people, and interacting with your connections, you’ll fine-tune your social skills. You’ll also grow accustomed to talking about yourself and asking questions about others. You’ll build confidence when discussing your job, career milestones, and professional goals. And you’ll perfect your ability to spot the subtle verbal and nonverbal cues of others.

Networking is an excellent opportunity to exchange viewpoints and gain knowledge about industry best practices. Your connections are a secondary source of information, and you can use them to learn about:

  • New business methods, strategies, and techniques
  • The latest software programs and tools
  • Top industry developments and trends

Not only will you gain that knowledge during natural conversations, but you can also seek it out by asking questions and seeing what your contacts share online. Then, you can share that information with your superiors and receive recognition.

Your professional network is a great resource for gathering fresh ideas and perspectives. Your contacts come from a variety of industries and professional landscapes, and those diverse experiences will prove valuable when you’re feeling stuck.

So, if you need guidance, reach out to your network and ask for help. You’ll likely hear insights that you hadn’t considered. And, even if no one has an exact solution, you can still brainstorm and bounce ideas off one another.

“Networking has been cited as the number one unwritten rule of success in business. Who you know really impacts what you know.”
Sallie Krawcheck

How to Build New Connections

A professional network is a community of people—both online and off—with whom you can connect to give and get support. To build such a network, you must intentionally reach out to others, seize new opportunities, and prove that you’re a worthwhile connection. On your part, that requires five key activities, including:

  1. Becoming socially active. Putting together a great network requires ongoing effort. All relationships—professional or otherwise—take work. So, dedicate some time each week to attending events, staying active on social media, and meeting new people.
  2. Being strategic. Your professional network’s health depends on quality, not quantity. So, rather than trying to connect to everyone, be strategic. Set clear intentions so that you can build purposeful connections with people who align with your career goals and represent a variety of backgrounds. You should also select contacts that you’d be glad to support, since networking is a two-way street.
  3. Offering your help. Networking relationships are mutually beneficial—not self-serving. So, set the tone by helping others. As you engage in small talk, ask people about their workplace challenges, and look for opportunities to lend a hand. Offer your assistance, and you’ll prove that you’re a connection worth keeping.
  4. Staying up to date. Keep current with industry news to increase your value as a professional connection. Subscribe to relevant publications, sign up for alerts, and be someone others can turn to for advice. As a bonus, that extra knowledge will also give you more opportunities to help the people around you.
  5. Expressing interest in others. Being self-centered is a surefire way to sabotage a new relationship. So, express interest in others by being an active listener, asking questions, and helping people feel heard and understood. Lend people your undivided attention, and they’ll be more likely to see you in a positive light.

Building a network requires consistent, purposeful effort. Your success depends on the time you put in, the intentions you set, and the value you create for others.

Where to Find New Connections

Of course, even if you follow all of the above strategies, there’s still the lingering question of where to find those new contacts. While you can start a conversation almost anywhere, some places are inherently better than others for meeting new people, engaging in small talk, and forming lasting relationships.

So, where should you start? You have several options, and much of your choice will depend on preference.

Select the + buttons below to learn strategies for meeting new people and expanding your professional circle.

While it might not be top of mind, you likely already have a small network in place. Consider your family, friends, neighbors, and former classmates and coworkers. Even if those contacts feel irrelevant, don’t discount them. You never know how well-connected someone might be.

So, tap into your existing connections, ask for introductions, and expand from there. For example, you might call a few family members and ask: “Do you know anyone who works in the tech space?” Or, you might send an email to a few former classmates and ask: “Do you know any good publishers?” You can even use sites like LinkedIn to look through a friend’s connections to see if they know someone who’d be a valuable contact for you.

While asking for an introduction might feel unnerving at first, most people are happy to help—and a friendly introduction is always better than a cold call or email.

If there’s someone you’d like to meet—and you don’t share a connection with them—you can also use the internet as a launchpad. Use LinkedIn to search for people by name, industry, company, and location. If you find someone worth knowing, send them a personalized invitation to connect and lay the foundation for a new relationship.

You can also find leaders in your industry and engage with them on Twitter—reacting to their posts, sharing their tweets, and asking questions. And, if one of those leaders writes blogs, leave thoughtful comments, and share those works on your social pages. While these online relationships take longer to build, keep at it, and you’ll soon become a prominent connection that people remember.

Another option is to join professional groups for certain fields and industries. For example, you might join a local group for lawyers, writers, or engineers. Or, you might go beyond your profession and join broader groups for women in the workplace or people of color.

A benefit of these organizations is that they connect you with like-minded individuals who share similar goals and professional challenges. And, like most organizations, they also hold social events, which you can use to meet others in your field and build long-term professional relationships.

If you’d like to meet people outside your line of work, you can also get involved in your community. Join a book club, sign up for a kickball league, attend a gym or yoga class, or volunteer for causes or organizations you care about.

The more visible you become, the more likely you are to make valuable professional connections. And because community events can attract a wide range of individuals, you’re also likely to meet people who can add diversity and breadth to your network.

A strong professional network is a valuable career asset—and it’s something that you must consistently and intentionally work toward. If your network is in short supply, you’ll need to commit to staying active and being strategic about which connections are worth pursuing. You’ll also need to demonstrate your value to others by offering your help and conveying interest in what other people have to say.

Start today. The worst networking mistake you can make is putting it off. Genuine connections take time to cultivate and maintain. So, if you wait for a crisis to kick-start your networking, you’ll be unlikely to reap rewards. Start growing your network today, and you can leverage those contacts when you need them.

Elevator Pitch

Picture this: You’re riding an elevator when the doors open … and in walks the CEO of your dream company. She smiles politely, nods, and presses the button for the top floor. Your heart pounds as you realise this is it—your make-or-break moment. You have 60 seconds to “wow” her before the doors open, and she’s gone forever. Are you ready?

With a little preparation, the above scene is an exciting opportunity to make a great first impression. All it requires is a winning elevator pitch—a pitch that helps you quickly and succinctly share who you are and why you’re worth knowing.

What Is an Elevator Pitch?

An elevator pitch (or elevator speech) is a short synopsis that briefly and memorably introduces you as a professional. It answers the infamous “So, tell me about yourself” question by touching on three points:

  1. Who you are
  2. What you do
  3. What you want

You can think of an elevator speech like a commercial. You have roughly 30 to 60 seconds to capture your audience’s attention and promote yourself.

An elevator pitch is meant to be short—delivered within the time it takes to ride an elevator up and down. It’s the highlights, not the cover letter.

Where to Share Your Elevator Pitch

While “elevator” is in the name, an elevator pitch isn’t just for elevators. It’s great for any networking opportunity where you need to introduce yourself on the spot—and quickly. It comes in handy in all types of situations and locations.

Move through the images below to see a few examples of where you might share your elevator pitch.

Job fairs and career expos

Networking events

Corporate conferences

Job interviews


Select this button to check your learning.


Structuring Your Elevator Pitch

You never know who you might run into and where. Make a powerful first impression by creating an elevator pitch ahead of time—that way, it’s ready to share when you need it.

So, how do you create a concise, compelling, and accurate pitch? Engage your audience—and cover all the bases—by using a clear and consistent structure.

Watch the video below to learn how to create a personal elevator pitch.

5 Pitch-Perfect Tips

After you write your speech, it’s time to start sharing it with the world. Make sure it’s a home run by adopting the following pitch-perfect tips:

  1. Don’t speak too fast. While your speech should be short, don’t rush through it. Speak too quickly, and your listener will struggle to understand—or absorb—anything. You want your words to be memorable, so keep the pace steady. And, if that’s taking too long, you likely crammed in too much information. So, do another round of editing.
  2. Skip the jargon. While professional jargon can sometimes speak to your skill level, it also limits you. Using acronyms, industry-specific phrases, and technical terms isn’t only confusing for many people, it also alienates them. So, skim over your speech and double-check that you’re using language that’s easy to understand.
  3. Express confidence. Convince your listener to believe in what you’re saying by expressing confidence. First, consider your voice. Are your words clear and well-enunciated? What about your body language? Are you standing (or sitting) tall, looking straight ahead, and making eye contact?
  4. Express positivity. Positivity is contagious—and it leaves a lasting impression. So, deliver your speech with enthusiasm. Use friendly facial expressions, smile, and try modulating your voice at different times to keep your listener engaged.
  5. Keep practicing. You won’t have a cheat sheet on the spot, so keep practicing. The more you practice, the less likely you are to forget something—and the more natural you’ll sound. So, recite your pitch out loud, in front of a mirror, over a recording, and with friends and family listening in.

Activity: Elevator Pitch

Open your eLearning Workbook and go to Activity: Elevator pitch.

Complete the five steps to create your own elevator pitch.

YDAN will be hosting a networking event as part of unleashed.
This is a great opportunity to make new connections and practise your elevator pitch.

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