3 Keys to Building a Solid Network

Over the past year and a half, I’ve been consistently leaning into networking. I’ll be totally transparent; there were a lot of last-minute self-pep talks in the car and a lot of “just go for 10 minutes, and if you don’t like it, you can leave” self-negotiations.

It took me a while to really understand the value (on both a personal and professional level) of stepping outside of my comfort zone, talking to strangers, and overcoming the mental hurdles (aka imposter syndrome) of networking. But once I did, connecting with individuals from all walks of life has been incredible, and I want to share some key learnings to help you build your own amazing network.

1. Find Your People

Join relevant industry groups and shared interest groups. It’s easier to spark conversation when you have something that you’re actually interested in in common. Gone are the days of finding common ground with the weather and the day’s traffic. For me, plugging into a network of ambitious, like-minded women (shoutout to the Professional Women’s Club of Chicago) and finding industry peers through The Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce was a game-changer. 

2. Focus on Building Relationships

Networking isn’t a one-way street. Be genuinely interested in others and what they do. Then, offer to help. For me, this includes asking very intentionally who they are looking to add to their network. By asking this specifically, I can get an idea of the exact person or role they are looking to meet, and I can then offer them a warm introduction to someone I may know before ever asking them for anything. Always offer to give before you take.

3. Think Outside of Your Professional Sphere

Where do you like to volunteer? Which organization supports a cause near and dear to you? Do you belong to a local community center or religious institution? Networking can be done anywhere. And bonus: you already have something in common with anyone you meet through these organizations.

Betsy Barnich has been an integral part of the FOCUS Training team since 2005, where she currently holds the Director of Business Development role. She excels in cultivating partnerships and executing strategic initiatives to foster organizational growth and leadership development. Betsy also leads a dedicated team responsible for implementing marketing and branding strategies for corporate program offerings. Beyond her professional endeavors, Betsy is deeply committed to philanthropy, actively engaging in community service initiatives throughout Chicago. She serves on the Board of Directors for the Professional Women’s Club of Chicago and contributes her expertise by sitting on the Workforce and Talent Council for the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce.

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