When I work with individuals on career coaching, we often have a discussion about networking. Here’s the concept: To expand the possibilities of taking your career where you want it, it’s good to network with people who are working where you want to be in the future. You want to be a manager? Develop relationships with people who are doing that job. You want to move into that other organization over there? Go find out who they are, how they think, and what they need.
But I know that this all seems so random and frustrating. I’m supposed to go hang out with those guys over there, and … do what? What do I talk about? Why should they want to talk to me? What’s the point?
The point is this:
- You’re trying to accomplish a career goal, either specific or vague.
- There are other people who will help you to realize that goal.
- Find out what they know.
- Get their help.
Let’s say that I’m an engineer in business unit A, and would like to leverage my skills to work in business unit B. There’s a number of people who can help me do that:
- People who work over there in business unit B
- People who create the jobs over there, or know when a job is being created
- People who have made this kind of transition and know what works and doesn’t work
These are the people you need to connect with.
Second, why should they want to talk to me? Here’s the secret: Give them value. No, really. What value might I have to give?
- Knowledge and skills I’ve developed over many years
- Information about business unit A
- Things I have yet to learn, but would like to
- My time, energy, and passion
I might volunteer to help them with some issues they’re dealing with. I might agree to go gather some information even though it will take some effort. Heck, I might even look out for a person who wants to move from business unit B into A – wouldn’t that be a cool win-win scenario?
But remember, value is in the eyes of the customer. Just because you think it’s valuable doesn’t mean they will. You have to actually hold conversations to find out what they need and how they think. That’s called developing relationships.
The end goal is that you wan those other people to:
- Know about you
- Know what skills and insights you might bring to them
- Think positively about what they know of you
When you have these things, résumés and CVs won’t matter anymore. They’ll know much more about you and want to bring you on board at the next opportunity.