What? Wear a nametag, walk around with a weak drink in your hand and ask people, “So what do you do?” How awkward. How lame. Are you joking?
Yes, we are. We’d never tell you to do that. Unless you wanted to. And we’d be cool with that. But if you dislike old school networking as much as most of us do, we’re here to tell you how you can go into stealth networking mode. Networking so subtle and low-key no one will even know you’re doing it. And if you think we’re talking about networking as in linking computers, read on.
What Career Networking is and Why It Is Still Important
Things happen. Start-ups shut down. Big companies have layoffs. The new person hired to be your boss is not someone you want to work for. You want to be promoted from within. Or you may just feel it’s time to move on. Whatever the reason, sooner or later you are going to want to make a change.
“The new normal is for Millennials to jump jobs four times in their first decade out of college. That’s nearly double the bouncing around the generation before them did,” says Heather Long, a senior writer and editor with CNN Money.
Perhaps you just want to earn more money. One of the fastest ways to do that is to change jobs, according to Long. A new position often comes with a better title and a substantial pay raise (15% or more versus 1 to 3% by someone staying in their current role).
Of course, you can log into Paysa to search for bigger and better tech jobs. At the same time, it is nice to have some inside intel on a company. Someone who could tell you to steer clear of this department and work for that one instead.
Networking is basically reaching out to friends, colleagues, former professors and classmates, relatives and neighbors when you’re in job search mode or trying to decide whether to go on board with a specific company.
“Networking can be a good way to hear about job opportunities or get an in at a company you’d like to work in,” says career coach Alison Doyle in an article for the personal finance website The Balance.
12 Very Low-Key Ways to Network
To succeed at networking, you don’t need to go to crowded random events that make you feel like a new kid in the school cafeteria. “Some people are born networkers, many of us are not. It can be an intimidating task to the more introverted among us, but it doesn’t have to be. Networking can seem very unappealing: who wants to approach strangers or impose on colleagues for favors?” says Cheryl Hyatt of the Pennsylvania-based executive search firm Fennell-Hyatt.
Here, based on a list she developed, are 12 low-key steps you can take for low-key networking:
- Write LinkedIn recommendations for three people you recently worked on projects
- Give someone a business or work-related book you liked
- Tweet an article relevant to your work that you found insightful; invite discussion
- Take someone out to lunch
- Volunteer to help at an upcoming event
- Update your LinkedIn profile
- Freshen up your resume
- Sign up for a seminar of value to your work
- Join your college’s alumni association
- Reconnect with a former colleague
- Participate in an industry-wide mentoring program
- Check Paysa’s website for tech job postings
Effective networking is built on mutual respect and reciprocity. Being a successful networker really comes down to not only being focused on what you can take, but on what you can offer. Look for opportunities to add value. By doing so, others will develop a favorable perception about you and be more likely to give you a recommendation, job opening heads-up or the inside scoop when you ask them.
Why Your Network is All Ready Bigger Than You Realize
A cornerstone of networking is authentic relationships with real people. “It’s not complicated. You’ve done it your whole life. Don’t turn this into something scary or awkward or uncomfortable,” advises Chrissy Scivicque, a Denver-based career coach. Networking can happen anytime, anywhere, she says. Waiting for your order at a take-out place, at an event you’re volunteering for or at your family’s annual summer barbecue –hey, maybe you didn’t know that your cousin or his girlfriend now work for a company you’re interested in.
In fact, your network may already be bigger than you realize without having to do much of anything.
Here, suggested by career coach Alison Doyle, are some possible sources of people you already know with whom you can exchange career information with:
- Past or present coworkers, colleagues, managers, supervisors or employees
- Past or present clients and customers
- Alumni of your undergraduate and/or graduate alma mater
- People you know from your personal life
- People you know through your significant other or your family
- Members of your gym, yoga studio, softball team or cosplay group
- Past or present teachers or professors
- Anyone you feel comfortable enough with to have a productive, professional conversation about your career path
Network Today For Tomorrow’s Job or Next Year’s Job
“Networking can be considered an investment that pays off in the future,” states an article in The Economist reporting on the correlation between networking and employees’ pay increases and job satisfaction.
It’s important not to wait to start networking efforts only when you’ve been laid off from your job or decide you’re ready to look for a new position. Keep in touch with people like former co-workers and classmates with an occasional short email or text to say hello and to ask how they are doing. You don’t need to try to become somebody’s new best friend. But be aware that people are more willing to help when they know who you are.
Also think outside your industry’s box and spend time with people you truly like. Maybe a great guy from your freshman year dorm went on to med school and now is a doctor at a hospital in your area. Paysa recently reported on the recent uptick in IT work in the healthcare industry. So maybe you meet up with him for a beer or some pho every couple of months. And then at some point if you’re applying for an IT job where he works or even at a different facet of the health care system, you could ask him for a recommendation. A personal recommendation from someone working in an industry you are interested in would be good for your chances.
Keep Track of People in Your Network
Try to keep track of people you know and consider part of your network. You’re not the only one who’s interested in changing jobs. People move around. And your network won’t be of much use if you’ve lost track of who’s working where. Maybe put a time on your calendar every few months to take an hour and check to make sure you’re updated on everyone. Be mindful of who now has what job title, what company and department they’re working in, and how to get in touch.
A robust professional network can help give you a better shot at a possible new job. People may know that a colleague of theirs is leaving the company before HR even knows. If your contact refers you for the job informally, you could end up at the head of the hiring line before the position is officially open. Employee referrals are a great way to get hired. People like working with people they know and trust.
Only Do What Feels Comfortable But Do It
Start small. It’s okay not be a backslapping, hand-shaking networking kind of person. Take small steps. Maybe try once a month to do one or more of the 12 steps listed above. Do what feels comfortable for you as long as you’re doing something. You’ll be glad you did.