As you climb the career ladder, that old saying, “it’s not what you know, but who you know”, starts to ring truer. I’m not saying that you can’t progress based on merit alone, but a strong network will open up greater opportunities and can certainly speed up your progress.
When it comes to networking, there are two questions I always get asked. The first one is; “where do I start?”. The second is; “how do I get better at it?”. Both are big topics, so today I’m going to focus on where to start (stay tuned for a post on how to be a networking natural!).
‘Friends of friends’:
Reach out to your existing contacts (friends, ex-colleagues etc.), to request introductions to contacts of theirs in specific fields and industries that are of interest to you.
Personally, I found this especially helpful before getting my first board role, as I networked with people who were able to give me insights into industries that were relatively new to me, meaning I was better equipped come interview time. Going through this process, what really struck me is how generous people can be with their time, so don’t be afraid to ask, as the worst they can do is say no.
Whilst a bit cliched, I have found joining industry bodies that are aligned to my career ambitions, to be really valuable. You get to meet like-minded people, are exposed to invaluable learning & development, and it can open the door to opportunities that would otherwise have passed you by.
Courses & Study:
This doesn’t have to be about signing up to an MBA. Even short courses are a great way to expand your network. I have undertaken a number of different courses, at each one using the breaks to get to know the other attendees, keeping in touch post-course. Following one course in particular, I set up a LinkedIn group so that we could continue to keep in touch, share learning’s, contacts etc.
A mentor can be invaluable in supporting you in developing your career. Find someone who is doing what you want to be doing in five to ten years time. This way, you will learn from their experience while also getting the benefit of access to their established network.
Linked In Groups:
The World is moving online, and networking is no exception. Find a LinkedIn group that is relevant to you and get involved. Join conversations on relevant topics, and share information, insights and news that the rest of the group would benefit from. Over time, you will get to know the main characters, and can start to build 1-on-1 relationships.
Every capital city in Australia (and beyond), now has an extensive number and array of Meet-up groups, on practically every topic conceivable. All you need to do is get online, find a topic that interests you, in a location that is convenient, and off you go.