I think a lot of people struggle with networking because in a way it can feel ingenuine. It certainly can be, if your intention is to only be connected with people who might possibly give you a job one day. But there’s definitely other reasons to network, and I would argue that growing your community – even just making more friends – is never a bad thing.
There are lots of pros to networking, but I wanted to list a few below that you might not have thought about:
- Finding a mentor in your industry
- Learning more about your industry
- Professional development
- New friendships
- Finding people who advocate for and sponsor you
With that in mind, check out some ideas to get you started with growing your network.
Get ‘LinkedIn’ to people
An obvious way to grow your network is being active on LinkedIn. Add people that you’re interested in getting to know. Follow influencers in your industry. Like and more importantly, comment on posts. This will also help recruiters notice your profile. For more tips on improving your LinkedIn game, check out our post Level Up at LinkedIn.
Become a member
A good way of adding some more people to your network is through joining professional organisations and memberships, and actively participating in them. This is one area in which I would personally like to improve, but Tessa is amazing at this.
At the moment she’s an active member of the Municipal Group of Valuers and the Young Property Professionals committee for the Australian Property Institute. She’s made some great connections through membership of these organisations, and also learnt a lot about her industry in the process. As a bonus, it also looks great on your resume.
I think internal networking is something that is actually extremely under-valued, but also extremely important – particularly for younger people just starting their careers. It’s unlikely that the first job you ever get is your dream job, but it might be that the organisation you work for has that dream job in its ranks.
To kick this off, I’d simply start asking people you’re interested in to have a coffee and chat about what they do day to day. I found this extremely helpful to help me narrow down what it was that I wanted to do next. My problem was that I joined the business knowing that I would want other challenges, but didn’t know what the next challenge was. By talking to other interesting and engaged people in the business, I got to know what their day to day looked like and if it was something I could see myself doing.
Yeah but does this actually work?
Story time! The way I joined Zendesk was actually through applying for a Trainer role, which I missed out on. The hiring manager Dan told me that he thought I had real potential but they were looking for someone with more experience. I loved Zendesk and knew I wanted to work there so I stalked their job page waiting for the next opportunity to come up.
Low and behold, a role became available on their Advocacy team. I emailed Dan straight away and asked him if I’d be a good fit for the role. He referred me to the hiring manager in advocacy, and then I was in!
Fast forward one and a half years as a Customer Service Advocate, a role became available in Dan’s team as a Services Consultant. Dan and I had stayed in touch during my time at Zendesk thus far and he offered me the chance to apply for the role. I was lucky enough to be successful and here I am today, working as an Engagement Manager for a company that I love to work for. I went from being unsuccessful at the Trainer role, to being a respected part of an amazing team. If I’d lost contact with Dan, there’s every chance that I wouldn’t have ended up at Zendesk and had all the amazing opportunities I’ve had.
I hope my story makes you stop and think about some of the people you’ve been in touch with, and perhaps lost touch with. Not every person you network with is going to offer you a job, but they can be people who advocate for you, or teach you something valuable. Spend time on growing your network and cultivating those relationships. You never know when it will lead to that amazing first opportunity.