Networking is essential for career growth, and imma tell you why.
A little background
In 2001, when my career began, we didn’t have the tools we have today to connect with folks in a softer way like LinkedIn, I worked in recruitment and we had to learn to do it on the telephone, literally calling a switchboard and trying our best to get put through to someone in the department that we needed haha.
You can imagine how our lives changed with the advent of LinkedIn, it was quite incredible. Suddenly I was able to share a little of who I am with someone in a softer way, and open the door to us connecting IRL. My world changed overnight.
I’m here for the long game
Connecting with new people and networking is a habit I haven’t broken to this day. I rarely recruit, but I invite folks to connect on LinkedIn with the goal of connecting with them and seeing what grows.
It is a habit that has served me well. My big ol’ LinkedIn and IRL network has given me new jobs, new opportunities, new friends and definitely a tonne of inspo along the way.
Through my coaching work, I know that networking feels scary if you aren’t used to it. The good news is that you don’t have to do the hard yards of calling switchboards now, you have LinkedIn at your fingertips.
I want to be as helpful as I can be to you all, and share what helped me get better at doing it.
How you can build your own networking habit
It really comes down to three things:
- Stop assuming that you won’t bring any value to the other person
I get it, they might be more senior than you, or be someone you admire in some way, but I can’t emphasise enough, you will bring them value. In my own case, I remember connecting with Catalina Schveninger for the first time. She was more senior than me and recommended me for a role. We built a friendship that meant that when she was moving into a new role (one I was moving into also), I invited her into a small group of peers that were supporting each other that she found incredibly useful and powerful, as did I.
- Dedicate time to outreach
My best advice is to start with inviting someone to connect with you on LinkedIn, but tell them something you admire about them. If they respond, follow up with asking them if they’d be open to a call with you. Perhaps share where you are at in your career right now and position as an informal mentoring session. Asking someone for advice on something is hugely powerful. We love to be useful to each other, so if you want to appeal to something in them, let it be that.
- Feed and water the contacts that you make
I am not super organised about this, but what I can say is that once I identify an ally, I do my very best to keep in touch. Maybe that’s a WhatsApp here and there. Perhaps it is a comment on a post I see. Perhaps it is a message I send on LinkedIn. Perhaps it is me asking them if they would like to catch up and say hello.
The worst case scenario
The very worst thing that could happen is that someone either ignores the request, or says no. And if they do that, we haven’t lost anything. We don’t know them, they don’t know us. It truly isn’t personal, so please don’t make a ‘no’ feel like it is something about you. It truly isn’t. People have busy lives and careers and sometimes simply don’t have the bandwidth for anything else.
If you have read this far, I am afraid I am going to make the most of that and set you a challenge. Invite three people to connect on LinkedIn, and see if you can start a gentle conversation that leads to a call. That person could even be me.
If you have enjoyed reading this, please share it with someone who might benefit from it also, perhaps you could create a networking accountability partner…?