The Strongest Network We Have But Often NeglectBy
Unless you live under a rock, chances are your everyday activities will involve some level of networking. Networking is critical. It provides the knowledge, resources, and support system that can sustain one’s personal development. Everyone does it, even unconsciously.
From what I’ve observed, however, most people have a flawed and negative perception of networking. They think the act of sharing information is unidirectional and often don’t know who they should network with. During events, they tend to target either prominent attendees or panelists, as if they are the only people who can help them achieve their goals. I’ve had many elevator chats with people who went home with their stack of business cards almost untouched because they didn’t get to speak with the people they wanted. The truth is, effective networking runs on a give-and-take basis. No one knows so much as to not need more knowledge and information. Anyone can offer valuable insight and the biggest network that we too often don’t take advantage of is the one that is the most accessible to us: our peers.
Who are they? At a networking event, they are the people who, like you, are either looking to make a connection, find a mentor or learn about a particular topic. Our peers include classmates, friends, colleagues etc. We tend to underestimate them because they are generally at the same stage in life and have similar goals so we assume they can’t help us in any significant way, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Our peers have knowledge, experience and talents that can benefit us. For example, an old classmate could be the one who refers you to their manager for potential hiring. It’s easier to maintain relationships with this group because they are people we already know. Here are some ways in which you can successfully network with your peers:
- Show Interest
The best way to find out how you can help someone (or vice-versa) is by asking questions. Ask about their background, their current jobs, their career aspirations, short or long-terms goals – anything to keep the conversation going. You can send monthly check-in emails to a group of old connections or send out invitations to coffee or lunch dates. People love talking about themselves so be there to listen. Showing a little interest in someone else’s life, is often greatly appreciated. You can learn a lot from that. At the same time, be sure to participate in the conversation as well.
- Organize Mastermind Groups
When you’re lucky to meet a group of like-minded people, it’s worth exploring that connection. Start a meetup group and get together frequently to openly talk about your goals, the obstacles that you encounter and your progress. Being part of support groups can only move you forward. It’s a great way to stay motivated and not fall behind as you hold each other accountable.
- Share Your Experience
I recently connected with someone after sharing my experience interning at Hearst Magazines. She was offered a position there and wanted to have a better understanding of the company’s culture in order to make a decision. She was wise to ask someone who had been in that position before.
When you share your experience, you open yourself to constructive feedback as people could point out mistakes that you wouldn’t have otherwise realized you’d made.. So always be open to listening to people and sharing your story.
- Exchange Knowledge and Information
When you make it a habit to listen to people and voice your goals, you position yourself to be a contributor and to also stay on top of industry news and important events. My friends and I consistently email each other useful articles, links to job postings or important events happening because we know each other’s interests. Having this kind of support is very enriching and it helps us stay focused.
- Peer-to-Peer Coaching
I heard this term for the first time at Eventsy’s Women’s Empowerment Summit. If your peers have particular skills, use them to your advantage. If an old classmate knows how to design business cards, ask for their services before hiring a professional. The same way, if you’re good at cover letter writing for example, help your peers proofread their job applications. Harnessing your network’s abilities will cost less and be more beneficial to all of you.
- Attend Networking Events Together
Attending networking events with your peers has its perks. It makes it easier to spark a conversation with someone. You can also spread out and speak to as many people as possible and then share the things you’ve learned.
We are constantly surrounded by our peers and it’s a network that we interact with daily. Learning how to optimize it is a worthy investment.
By Shelcy Joseph
About the Author
Shelcy Joseph is a freelance writer and career blogger living in New York City. She frequently contributes to several publications such as Classy Career Girl, That Working Girl, FindSpark, LinkedIn Pulse, Eventsy etc. Connect with her via Twitter, Gmail or LinkedIn.