Networking is marketing. Marketing yourself, marketing your uniqueness,
marketing what you stand for. —Christine Comaford
A quick search of the word “networking” will garner about 772 million results filled with tips and tricks to getting ahead. As a buzzword used by just about every blog and industry, there is not much to say about networking that hasn’t already been said and repeated. So why are we writing about it? We found that most, if not all, of these posts focus on the necessity of networking in the job search process. What they fail to mention is how networking can impact one’s professional development while already employed.
By definition, networking is learning from and having access to people who can help you in a variety of ways. Whether it’s making connections within your company or outside your industry, networking is an excellent, sometimes even exciting, form of career development—not just a means to a new career.
Networking with a mentor
Instead of searching online for a “how to”, contact someone you admire or aspire to be and ask them for their professional opinion. This not only connects you with someone in the field with experience, it inadvertently connects you to their wider network of individuals (think: Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon).
Invite this person out to lunch, coffee, or just a walk around the block and really listen to what they have to say. Treat this as an opportunity to truly listen and learn from someone whom you respect—this should not be a time to plug your own skills or interests. Save that for when you’re looking for a job.
Networking within your circle
This is a pretty common, yet often overlooked, avenue of networking. Joining local chapters of your business organization, or better yet, volunteering to be a leader of one, is great to boost both your resume and your understanding of the field and its leaders. But think outside the traditional box of national associations. Many cities have local gatherings of like-minded individuals looking for nontraditional ways to share information and find inspiration. A great online resource, MeetUp hosts a vast array of networking and group events, including women in technology, pub runs, and board game groups. Whatever your interests, MeetUp has a faction for you.
Networking with an expert
While connecting with an expert can give you access to local networks, learning from national experts will impart tactical skills that can be immediately applied in your day-to-day activities. This type of networking includes taking Skillshare courses, attending national conferences, or following blogs (we recommend these blogs for sales professionals). These types of events, courses, and forums bring together people from different backgrounds and experiences, with similar industries and career paths, into a medium designed for education and communication. This also gives you a place to present your own ideas or work for feedback and collaboration.
Network outside your industry
Networking doesn’t always mean learning from those in your own industry. There are a variety of ways that one person can help you grow; he or she may know someone in your field or have useful career advice that is applicable across a variety of careers. Otherwise known as “bridging capital,” this will give you the ability to bridge a gap between yourself and another industry and gain access to new insights. Facebook Events is a great resource for happenings in your area. As a bonus, it will tell you which of your friends are planning to attend.
Network actively & passively
Your networks, which will hopefully transform into advocates for your career success, should be built up over time. Keep in touch with your networks at all times, whether it’s initiating online or in-person conversations. Having repeated positive interactions with people will allow them to remember you—and if they don’t, your social media should do it for them. Continue to update your profiles with new posts and information that will keep you at the top of people’s minds and feeds.
While this is just yet another blog about networking, it’s important to understand that networking extends far beyond the traditional LinkedIn connections and sharing of business cards. Even when you love your career, there are a variety of ways you can continue to grow your skills and network.