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The Secret to Great Opportunities: Building Your Network

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We’ve been inspired by Tanya Menon at Acacia HQ today. Her TED talk on how consciously expanding our networks will lead to new ideas and opportunities is heading towards 2 million views and has us all thinking.

Our company beliefs revolve around the concept that humans are social creatures and learn best when they have peers around them. But why is important for us in HR and L&D to build valuable networks?

Why are professional networks so important? 

Taking a professional qualification is essential for a career in HR or Learning and Development but is there more to it than the certificate, skills and knowledge gained?

One of the reasons students tell us that they keep coming back to study in one of our London CIPD classrooms is that they know they’re going to meet such a diverse range of people within their sector – other professionals they keep in contact with long after the course ends.

So, we did a little digging to see what the evidence is that networks work (we found a lot, but these are my top three).

  1. 8 out of 10 people prefer face-to-face meetings to remote ones with the top reasoning being the value of group interaction and discussion
  2. 83% of the 12,000 people surveyed rated face-to-face professional referral networks for their success over all others
  3. A five-year study found networking the most effective source of career progression with 46% of people using their network to successfully find a new job.

Networking in HR and Learning & Development 

It’s a common misconception within our industry that networking is only important if you want to move into a HR or L&D consultancy role. The pressure on HR departments to hold confidential information can create barriers which is why it’s even more important for us, as a profession, to demonstrate openness and build trust. Technical competency is a must but continuing to develop credibility takes well nurtured professional relationships. They can open opportunities and ensure you have advocates within your organisation and more widely.

How to make the most of a face-to-face CIPD course: 

  1. Keep in touch

    Networks need nurturing, they don’t work if they are only engaged in when you need something. Sustaining a reciprocal relationship has never been easier. Our students find the shared WhatsApp group they use an invaluable resource. They have a ready made group to ask for advice and swap tips whether it’s assignment deadlines or work difficulties.

  2. Be authentic

    We are social beings and networking should feel like an extension of this rather than forced interactions. The people you choose to connect with should be an ongoing part of your professional life – enjoy it!

  3. Ask for help

    Don’t be scared to reach out to your network. Most people are happy to lend a helping hand or introduce you to someone they know. What particularly comes to mind is the feedback an anonymous CIPD student left for us last year:

    “Acacia encourages you to create links with other students; this really helped to motivate me when the last thing I wanted to do was study! We were a positive influence on each other.”

  4. Look for someone different

    It would be remiss not to refer to Tanya Menon’s talk. She makes the case for why we should talk to the person who looks least like us beautifully – don’t believe me, give it a listen. It shows why our tutors like to mix up group work so much!

    Elisabeth Bucknall, HR Business Partner at C Space, built networks when studying with us. Listen to her story to find out how her HR networks helped facing challenges at work.



Dr Ivan Misner: