Always Be Networking
The things you should know about effective networking
This is the second installment in a series I’m writing on developing the soft skills need to succeed in the world of tech. If that interests you, join our community by subscribing. Also, feel free to follow me on LinkedIn/X. :) -Logan
In today's world, networking is crucial for both personal and professional growth. It’s a common misconception that networking is a separate, standalone activity. In reality, effective networking is an ongoing process that involves developing meaningful relationships over time. It’s a skill everyone must learn because networking has a significant impact on your career progression and success.
I've been fortunate enough to have people to guide me through the networking process and to teach me to make the best of it. Here are the most important things I've learned.
Why You Need a Strong Network
Here are some key reasons:
Access to Opportunities: A strong network opens doors to job opportunities and collaborations often not found through traditional channels. Your network can introduce you to contacts, recommend you for positions, and increase your chances of finding opportunities that align with your goals. I know this firsthand because my first role at Microsoft was a result of my network.
Knowledge and Learning: Networking with a diverse group offers a wealth of knowledge and learning. Connecting with people from various backgrounds, industries, and experiences brings unique insights and perspectives, crucial for staying updated with industry trends and broadening your understanding of different fields. This was a primary motivator for me to start writing Society’s Backend and it has been a gateway to many new connections.
Support and Advice: Your network can be a supportive pillar. Whether you need guidance or feedback on an idea, your network is there. Having a circle that offers honest feedback and advice is invaluable for career navigation. I’ve always sought advice from my network before I’ve made any career move.
Invest in Your Current Network
The true benefits of a strong network are lost if you prioritize expansion over your existing network. Focusing solely on meeting new people and growing your network, without investing in existing relationships, is counterproductive. Remember, a large network with superficial connections is less valuable than a smaller, more intimate one.
To maintain my network, I set reminders to catch up with my closer colleagues and friends every so often. A simple strategy is noting down the birthdays of the people I want to connect with and reaching out to say happy birthday. This is a simple way to catch up on what they’re doing and keep them informed about what I’m doing (which is equally as important) at least once a year.
Never pretend to be something you’re not. A common misstep on platforms like Twitter/X is posing as an expert in a field where one is just a beginner. I think this is done to create a facade of authority in the hopes to connect with and learn from others who are true experts. Experts see through this facade. It hinders the formation of genuine relationships and (humorously) makes it harder to learn. Most experts are open to assisting those trying to learn, but no one wants to chat with someone who isn’t being genuine.
Be authentic, show genuine interest, and ask sincere questions and you'll build meaningful relationships with other equally genuine and wonderful people.
Common Networking Pitfalls
Reaching out without a purpose: I enjoy networking calls/coffee chats and always try to make time for them whenever someone reaches out to me; however, it’s apparent when someone is seeking to chat just because I work at Google rather than wanting to have a real conversation. Reach out to someone with an actual purpose- it’s really easy and makes a huge difference. Just ask about their work or seek advice on a topic they might know more about.
Failing to follow up: Don’t be disheartened if someone doesn’t respond to you immediately. People are busy and a polite reminder is always acceptable.
Expecting too much: Remember, when someone assists you, they're extending a favor. Appreciate what your network can do and respect its limitations. Your network wants to see you succeed. If someone can't help at the moment, it isn’t malicious and doesn’t mean they never will.
Underutilizing your network: Your network can’t assist you if they're unaware of your needs. Feel comfortable reaching out, just as you would want others to feel when approaching you. As long as your approach is respectful, your network expects and will welcome it.
Being Impatient: Developing a network takes time. Embrace patience, persistence, and consistency. Networking isn’t about instant results; it’s about cultivating relationships over time.
Networking is Reciprocal
Networking is inherently reciprocal. If you seek support from others, be prepared to offer support as well. Whether it’s sharing your expertise, making introductions, or supporting their projects, it’s easy to support someone else and takes very little time to do so. Remember that circumstances can change quickly and you will likely need your network’s support in the future.
I’ve seen this all over social media. Those who excel in building large networks online are typically the ones eager to uplift others. This generosity comes full circle and others are willing to support and elevate them in return.
You Are a Brand
Your online persona is a significant component of your professional identity. Every post and interaction contributes to your personal brand, which means it’s essential to curate an online presence that reflects well on you professionally. While not every post needs to be work-related, maintaining a positive online image is always beneficial.
What you do in real life also reflects on your personal brand. Networking even happens during casual conversations. Seize every opportunity to engage with others and learn about them. In tech, for instance, showing sincere curiosity about someone's work can leave a lasting impression. Everyone wants to talk about the things they’re working on.
The most important place you should be networking is at your current job. Get to know your colleagues. Make a good impression on them by keeping up-to-date with their projects. This will not only keep you informed but also show your colleagues that you value their work.
Equally important is making a positive impression through your work. Produce high-quality results, stay organized, and communicate your progress. Being seen as capable and reliable by your colleagues creates a network of individuals who can personally vouch for your work.
Always Be Networking
Networking is important, but it doesn’t have to be complex. Here are the most important things to remember:
Prioritize keeping up with your current network over expanding.
Be genuine in your interactions.
Be willing to help others.
Networking takes place everywhere.
Remembering these four principles will help you build your professional career and meet wonderful people.
Speaking of meeting wonderful people, here’s a piece I really enjoyed byon consumption and creativity. Jorge and I share many of the same viewpoints on the practical use of AI, content creation, and content consumption. I have found his writing helpful and I think you will too.
Thank you for reading all the way to the end and supporting my writing! Don’t forget to subscribe. If you’re already a free subscriber, you can upgrade to paid for just $5/mo. Paid articles and other benefits are coming soon.