How to build your professional network?

Written by Laura Swysen

14 minutes of reading

Having an idea is good, finding partners to make it real is even better. Building a robust professional network is key to develop your projects. But where and how to search for the “right people”? 

Everyone knows Steve Job but would have Apple been a global success story without Steve Wozniak and Ronald Wayne? Would the mainstream public know of John Hanke’s Niantic company without his massive support team? An idea might be essential to develop a project but its realization and growth are as important as the initial spark. Developer, graphic designer, communication, or marketing expert: there are so many jobs that are crucial to launching a start-up. Actually too much for one person, even with a huge motivation, to handle them all. This is the reason you need to develop a network as large as possible

Knock on the right door 

“There are no coincidences, only encounters”. Even if French author Paul Eluard did not live in the social media era, he had realized the importance of making new professional relationships. “Networking” is the ability to further develop one’s connections in order to find the right people at the right time. To do so, there are several real and virtual places where to make new links.

Thanks to their relaxed atmosphere, professional meetings such as BeTech First Tuesday are ideal places to meet potential colleagues in the new technology sector. Joining a community such as the BeTech Community is also a great way to meet people. Coworking spaces are also interesting places where you can meet budding entrepreneurs. For example, Silversquare and Spacesworks offer coworking spaces all over Belgium.

Moreover, you can take advantage of the services of companies related to your sector. For example, Molengeek and Co.Station offer trainings, organise events and provide coworking spaces. You can meet many people related to your field by participating in these different activities or simply by working in their coworking spaces.

Always be aware of the next conference or workshop by following as many websites related to your favorite sectors as possible, such as:

In order to boost women’s presence in the corporate world, women-oriented networks have also risen. they are useful tools to tie professional relationships. There are severals in Belgium:

Too shy? No worries, there are websites linking freelancers and companies, such as Beelance. These secured platforms foster new encounters in a fully professional environment.  

Finally, you should try less traditional techniques such as the Shapr Networking application. It allows you to expand your professional network thanks to a swipe & match system. You can see profiles like on Tinder, but here the goal is to make professional contacts that will enrich your network.

Strike while the iron is hot 

Making new connections is a great start, but the most important is to maintain your network. You’ve chatted with a dozen people after the last conference you attended? Do not rest on your laurels, the professional events regulars meet a lot of people and will have soon forgotten about you unless they get some news. Try not to harass them by sending a ton of emails. If you have professionally matched with someone, offer them to get a coffee a few days later. It is always nice to know their background better or to discuss a possible collaboration.

Do not get in touch only when you need a favor but keep contact from time to time whilst mentioning your own project’s evolution. It is not because an entrepreneur does not need your services at a given time that it won’t be the case a few months later. The most important is for people not to forget about you.

Finally, you can also take advantage of past relationships. Indeed, the people you studied with probably work in sectors that are complementary or identical to yours. They are therefore potential interesting contacts and may hold positions relevant to your business. In addition, it will be easier to get in touch with people with whom you have already had some camaraderie.

Play the right tune

Develop new connections is also and mostly about working on oneself. Be at every after work in Belgium without daring to say a word won’t be very helpful…

Define your expectations and goals. Do you simply seek inspiration or do you have a concrete idea to expand? Work on your approach, whether virtual or direct.

  • sharpen your emails,
  • find a punchy teaser,
  • be as clear as possible,
  • smile,
  • speak up,
  • express your ideas in a concise way.

Be present on social networks

There are professional social networks where it is essential to be present. We think of LinkedIn or even Viadeo. But you should not underestimate the impact that networks like Instagram and Twitter can have on the growth of your network.

Show your personality, these networks should present your “brand image”. It is therefore important to take care of it. Present your professional background, your current projects, your activities and your ambitions.

Each social network has its own codes, so adapt your way of communicating according to these specificities. If you adopt the right habits, you can meet many people who are part of your work sector and who will feed your professional network. So remember to comment on other people’s posts and subscribe to accounts that are held by people whose profiles you find interesting. If necessary, don’t be shy and get in touch directly via private messages

Organise your time well

Before taking all these steps, it is essential to have an organised professional life. This will free up time for networking.

To do so, you can surround yourself with companies that will make your life easier. Whether it’s for your accounting, legal paperwork or workspace, there are organisations that can help you.

Beelance is a partner of three organisations that can help you and offer benefits to our platform members:

This mobile application is a financial assistant for the self-employed. Connected to the bank account, it allows you to create your invoices and not forget any professional expenses. In addition, it gives you real-time visibility on your taxes and allows you to submit your VAT.

This coworking space, which I mentioned above, is a pioneer of coworking in Belgium. It’s a place where you can exchange and share ideas, work with others, get inspired and grow your business in a professional multi-sector environment.

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By following those recommandations, you will hold all the cards to find the person or the people that will best support your new career!  

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