reco (our version of a quick tip): Don’t overthink what value you have to offer when networking, it can be as simple as a podcast recommendation.
Building a network is critical to your career growth as you become more and more experienced. And you don’t necessarily need to be an extrovert to grow your network day-in and day-out. But first, you should start by asking yourself a few questions:
- What can I offer my network?
- What do I want out of my network?
- How much time do I have to commit?
What can I offer my network?
This question is crucial as social capital works the same as any other relationship, you can’t just ask ask ask, you have to be able to contribute some sort of value to the relationship. The thing that most people often overthink is that it needs to be of high value or relevant to your industry? But, like most people you’re a multi-dimensional person, and you have interests that span beyond your 9–5 pm. So here’s an exercise for you to try:
Write down 3 things that you’ve learned about in the last year. It can be a book you read, a podcast you listened to, or maybe it’s a new app you’ve tried and have thoughts on.
When at a loss for what to offer someone you’re looking to network with simply offer any of the three things you’ve learned about. You’d be surprised at how receptive people are to this in exchange. Another way to add value for most people is to offer your feedback on their app/website or project that they’re working on. Make sure that you’re always offering something even if it feels like you don’t have to, this ensures that you have balanced relationships across your network.
What do I want out of my network?
In today’s world, you can build a following on so many platforms, when people think about professional networks most think immediately of LinkedIn, but the reality is an engaged following on Twitter, Reddit, and even Instagram/Facebook can be just as valuable, it all depends on what you’re looking to get out of your network. If you’re looking for easily digestible content and don’t care about the industry you might gravitate towards Twitter. If you’re looking for longer-form debate and variety in communities then consider Reddit. If you’re currently on the job hunt then be active on LinkedIn because that’s where all the recruiters are.
Note: You can be active on as many networks as you want but when building a network it’s helpful to focus your time on a specific one to capitalize on momentum built — see more in the next section.
How much time do I have to commit?
It helps to be honest with yourself with how much time you actually have during a week to build a following online (or in a post-COVID world in person). If it’s on the lower end of the spectrum then your expectation should be to make each engagement deliberate. Each comment or post should be substantive in some way or another. If you have more time to spend on any platform then it’s okay to have lighter engagement sprinkled throughout the week, but you should also be posting and commenting with purpose. For those that are on the job hunt, you should really be putting in time on finding jobs where the hiring manager is visible and creating touch-points with them. If you go straight to asking for a job you likely will not hear back from them, don’t forget about what you have to offer first.
Use time blocks to make sure that you’re using your time wisely when you are trying to build out your network on a platform or in person.
If you want an easy place to start to give you some momentum, then create a LinkedIn profile and connect with all your co-workers from past and current jobs so you can benefit from seeing what they’re writing and sharing and can join in on conversations.
Check out the resources below for building out your network:
- Article — How to Make Your One-on-Ones with Employees More Productive (HBR)
- Article — How to Build a Helpful and Well-Connected Professional Network From Scratch (The Muse)
- Video — How To Hack Networking (TEDxUniversityofNevada)
If you’re looking for personalized career coaching that is simple and affordable, please sign-up for our waitlist at hellorees.com.