How young professionals can build a strong network

by Justin Welsh
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You may not know it, but the people you are surrounded by right this very second at your job, are going to be big deals. They are future Directors, VPs, and CEOs of incredible companies. 

Don’t believe me? My small team at Zocdoc back in 2009 had the future COO of Managed by Q, the future VP of CS at Teachable, VP of Sales at Glia, CEO & founder of MealPass, SVP of Sales at PatientPop (hey, that was me!), and many, many more.

It’s important that you understand how the future will play out, because it will allow you to grasp the importance of forming an incredible network early on in your career. When you start early, you stay connected to all of those amazing people throughout their careers. 

If you navigate network building correctly, you come to a point in your career where you never have to seek out new jobs or put together a new resume. 

Ready to get started? Let’s dive in.

1. Be successful

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Before we dive into multiple ways to build a strong network, let me tell you that being successful at your job is absolutely the best foundation you can lay for building out your network. Superstars want to hang around other superstars, and when you’re a top performer, your network will begin to grow organically—especially internally at your current company.

As you read through the rest of this list, remember that you can’t fake performance in your job. You can’t network your way to the top when you don’t perform well at any role in your career. 

It’s critical that you’re successful as a young sales professional, and if you aren’t, I’d recommend immediately applying tactic number two, which is...

2. Hang around successful people

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There is a popular saying that goes:

You are the average of the five people you hang around the most.

I don’t know if that statement is 100% accurate, but it does capture something that is extremely important early in your career: your tribe

As you grow and develop in your sales career, some of your friends and peers will begin to separate themselves from the pack because of their outstanding performance. Your first inclination might be to be jealous or complain about their success, but don’t. You’d be doing it all wrong.

Spend more time with them! What are they doing differently? What have they learned that you haven’t? Grab some beers and start working through your challenges together. Build a relationship with these people.

Success is tethered directly to your mindset, and it’s important that you don’t fall into the wrong crowd with the wrong mindset. Audit your professional network. Are you hanging out with the guys and gals complaining about their job and their quota? Or are you hanging out with the folks that are performing?

Choose the latter and watch your network expand.

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3. Build a brand on LinkedIn

Over the last few years, LinkedIn has undergone a massive overhaul. It’s moved from being a boring business platform to a full-fledged social media platform where people are building real personal and professional brands. (It’s also great for prospecting!)

I’d recommend doing the following to enhance your brand on LinkedIn:

  • Fully build out your profile
  • Get a great headshot
  • Add 5 new people to your network each morning
  • Find 2-3 posts each day and comment thoughtfully and professionally
  • Write 2-3 posts of your own each week and be consistent.

It will take some time, but after 6-12 months, you’ll start to build a really strong brand. When you do that, you’re more likely to gain interest from other top performers, sales leaders, and even some executives on LinkedIn.

Look how much engagement my posts get on LinkedIn—engagement from professionals, with their real name and professional profiles attached.

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Over the last 2 years, I’ve been able to build a following of more than 20,000 people on LinkedIn, have Zoom meetings with hundreds of incredible leaders, and even make 10 or 12 close friends!

Start building your network on LinkedIn today. You won’t regret it.

4. Get a sales mentor

While LinkedIn is a great social media platform to extend your network, nothing beats having an excellent sales mentor who has “been there and done that”. Sales mentors come ready to help invest in your career, both today and in the future. 

When I was looking for a sales mentor, I was eyeing someone who could help me excel in my current role, but was also well connected and could introduce me to other fantastic sales professionals over time. When I found that person, they helped expand my network almost instantly. 

Want to know how to find a great mentor? You can ask your manager at your job, proactively seek out specific folks on LinkedIn, or…

5. Join a group

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When I was a young salesperson back in 2003, there was no such thing as LinkedIn or internet groups that you could join with live broadcasts and webinars. Today, there are thousands of places you can go online and in-person to meet incredible people to add to your network. 

I’d recommend joining sales organizations like The American Academy of Inside Sales Professionals (AA-ISP) and Modern Sales Pros (MSP). They both offer instant access to really talented individuals that you can meet online, and in person. 

Outside of groups like that, I’d check your local Meetup website to see what sales, startup, tech, or marketing meetups are happening in your area.

In conclusion

There is no better time to get started building a killer network than right now. You will never regret having spent the time, energy, and (even) money building a network that will have your back through the highs and lows of your career.

Focus on being successful in your career and hang around people that are already seeing the success you want. Build up your professional social media brand on LinkedIn, and do the same in person by leveraging local groups. Lastly, find a talented mentor that can help build your skills and introduce you to more high-quality people for your network. Best of luck!

 

justin-avatarAbout the author:

Justin Welsh is an entrepreneur and advisor to high-growth SaaS companies. His previous work experience includes serving as SVP of Sales for Los Angeles-based PatientPop, where he grew the business from $0 to $55M in recurring revenue in less than five years. During his tenure, PatientPop was named Entrepreneur's 16th most entrepreneurial company of 2018, one of Silicon Review’s 50 Fastest Growing Companies, and BuiltIn LA's #2 out of 100 best places to work.

Before that, Justin was the 10th hire and spent five years in various revenue leadership roles at Zocdoc.

You can learn more about Justin at www.theofficialjustin.com.