The old adage about “who you know” seems contrite, but the art of effective networking can completely change your life, your career, your opportunities, and your compensation.
If you’re someone who keeps to yourself or you’re more socially awkward than most, you’ll need to put in some work. It’s called net-“working,” after all.
Do Your Research
If you’re at a new company, it’s important to explore all avenues of career progression. When you see or meet someone with a job you want, ask them how they got there. Find out the channels they traveled through to end up in your desired position.
It’s not enough to just do this once or a handful of times and constantly evaluating your branching career paths and updating your lists of key contacts in those positions will serve to keep you focused in your pursuit of a dream job.
It’s really not enough to simply reach out and e-mail the folks you want to know, work with, or shadow–you have to see them face to face. Plan coffee talks, take them to lunch, grab drinks, and really pick their brain to ask personally and professionally pointed questions about your biggest curiosities.
Build rapport, but don’t lose sight of your purpose in all of your social interactions in the workplace. Be pragmatic. Think several steps ahead of the conversation and go into every chat with a plan of action and a clearly defined, desired result. This will keep you on task.
Conversations will happen organically, but you should be the one mediating the flow of subject matter when it veers off the tracks.
Shadow When Possible
The best way to learn a skill is to immerse yourself in its mastery. Find someone whose knowledge you want to tap into and whose skill set matches the place you see yourself ending up.
Don’t be intimidated by the experience gap between you and this person and remember that walls aren’t built in a day. All you have to do is lay a single brick.
When you’ve grown close enough to someone you’re networking with, ask to shadow them. Make note of their process, speed, and efficiency and write down the skill gaps that are holding you back from achieving that level of mastery. Make a conscious effort to review these notes and continue to improve yourself.
Throughout the shadowing period, ask for best practices and pro tips for achieving the speed and accuracy of your mentor and also ask for detailed reasoning when they make a judgment call. You need to understand how they think and perform not simply to mirror their behavior, but to put your own spin on things and to translate their success into your own unique path to success.
You always need a benchmark before you can improve a process.
Lend A Hand
No work is beneath you. If you go int a role too proud, you’ll be seen as a know-it-all. Like Kendrick Lamar says, “Be humble.” You can be confident and knowledgeable without coming off as pretentious.
Whether it’s someone you’re shadowing, someone in your service line, or someone completely separate from your current field, offer help when you have bandwidth.
Whatever you volunteer for, there is an expectation of follow through, so make sure to provide support that is of value.
The more you show your worth and value without going so far as to become a doormat, the more respect you will get ad the more you will be talked about.
Being talked about is a good thing because it means that they remember you.