4 Essential Steps To Building Professional Networks From Scratch
Contributed by Tori Rogers February 11, 2018
In April 2017, I said goodbye to family and friends and headed to the airport with 2 suitcases. I was doing it. I was traveling abroad for the very first time. I was moving across the world and I didn’t know anyone. That meant having to learn the secrets behind building a network of new friends and professional contacts. Here’s what I learned from building professional networks.
As a person that’s really big on relationships, it was more alarming to not have any connections than it was to be moving overseas and away from familiarity. Taking a lesson from our girl Issa Rae: “it’s not about networking up, it’s about networking across” – I focused on connecting with people that were ‘in the trenches with me, struggling with me and just as hungry as me’ (no, seriously, LOTS of lunch and dinner dates).
I’m sharing with you the tactics that helped me build a tribe in a country where I knew no one.
4 Strategies to Building Your Network From Scratch
1. Tap into your network.
Start with your circle: ask your company for introductions. Reach out to your family, friends, and professional contacts.
Shortly after being offered my teaching role, I proposed to the hiring manager that I would start and manage a Facebook group for new hires and current teachers. He was thrilled. I created the group and in a few days – it slowly grew with people from all over the world planning to move to Bangkok. We connected. We all shared our doubt, excitement, and advice. And we made plans to meetup in town as everyone flew in.
Within the first two hours of arriving, I was walking out of my Airbnb (this is how it’s used on their site) to the skytrain to meet people from the group. Shout out to Bangkok for the WARM welcome: literally and figuratively. I am still very close to this circle and we’ve had many experiences together. From Khao San Road (good times) to island hopping, the memories are priceless.
2. Network online
Connect with people on social media and forums.
- Join FB groups – Recently, I posted in several expat groups searching for a swim instructor. Enter my new friend, Mimi, that was also looking for a swim instructor. We compiled research together, all via FB Messenger and a Google Drive spreadsheet. A week later, we met for the first time at a pool for a swim lesson. That’s insane to me. Mimi and I immediately connected and supported each other throughout the swim lesson. We even made a bet – whoever comes up from underwater first buys the first drink! The world is truly beautiful.
- Start conversations on Instagram – I love shopping. I knew that shopping for curvy sizes, and American sizes period, would be a challenge while living in SE Asia. So, I searched for industry contacts on Instagram. I connected with two plus size bloggers and brands and I continuously nurture the connections. This has also helped me leverage these connections for future collaborations and opportunities.
- Comment in forums/blogs – I asked several questions on different travel forums such as Trip Advisor. I’ve found relatable contacts that understand issues like shopping for hair products, which is a challenge in Bangkok. I also found the current agency that I work at via reading through comments on forums.
- Connect with professionals in your industry on LinkedIn. One of my past roles as a Digital Marketing Manager at Texas Instruments (TI) started as a simple LinkedIn message. I connected with someone from my alma mater, University of Texas at Austin, (Hook ‘Em!) who had just been hired at TI and asked her how she found the opportunity and about her experience thus far. I had no expectations. Yet, that simple message led to me being flown out to Dallas for interviews as well as two and a half years of great corporate experience – all without even filling out a job application. LinkedIn provides a platform to connect with hundreds of millions of professionals all over the world for FREE – take advantage of it.
3. Get out and make in-person connections.
- Go to networking events. I’m all about attending conferences, professional happy hours, etc. We all know the pros of in-person networking. Before even moving to Bangkok, I had RSVPed for an upcoming American Chamber of Commerce happy hour. I now have a few corporate connections in different industries from different parts of the world.
- Join meetup groups and actually go to the events. Going to large networking events isn’t for everyone but meetup.com provides a space to find intimate groups with people that share the same interests ranging from book clubs to hiking. There’s a group out there for you. And if there isn’t a group for your interest, create one (see tip #4).
- Volunteer. A couple months ago, I emailed an Opera organization to manage marketing and PR, on a volunteer basis. Because of one email, I’ve had the opportunity to work with the CEO of a top PR agency that has offices in Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia. Volunteering also allowed me to attend events where I was introduced to Ambassadors and members/associates of the Thai Royal Family. Golden!
4. If all else fails, create your own small community.
Before moving, I searched for a space for Black professionals living in Bangkok to no avail. So, I created a group on meetup.com and a chat group that now has over 50 members and has created so many connections, both socially and professionally. We’ve had great times together, shared professional advice and collaborated with each other at planned networking events. I’m looking forward to what 2018 brings us!
Share your secrets for building a network from scratch below.