This is the fourth post in our series on how to accelerate your career in your twenties. In the coming weeks, we’ll be sharing lots of useful tips and advice in these articles to help you master the early stages of your career and rise quickly through the ranks. In this post we look at how to network and why it’s important.
If a talented guitarist plays to an empty room, is he really a talented guitarist? You can be the best at what you do, but without the right people around you to take notice it might not get you anywhere. What’s more, you’ll never be able to learn anything new if you keep your best thoughts and talents to yourself. That’s where networking comes in. Networking is a great way for twenty-somethings to leap forward in their career, be it online or in the office. You can give and take advice, express your opinions where they matter and associate with people other than the ones you sit with every day in the office. It’s a great way to learn and an even better way to get noticed. Here are some of the best ways to start networking.
Use social media
Most of us have a LinkedIn profile but not many of us do much with it. Instead of letting yours sit idle like a digital CV, start posting on there a few times each week about subjects and developments in your industry that interest you. From tech innovations to legislation changes, there’s always something going on that’s likely to impact your business - so why not talk about it? You can also share interesting links and comment on other peoples' posts. Follow some thought leaders outside of your business and start interacting with them - you may be surprised at where it leads.
Get chatting around the water cooler
If you work in the kind of office that promotes departmental mingling and office sharing, take advantage. If you look up to someone in the business or find their job interesting, ask them about it. The chances are they’ll be happy to talk about it and once a conversation like that has occurred a bond is made. The next time you bump into them you’ll have something more to discuss, and it could just lead to new opportunities and responsibilities within the business.
Always carry a business card
Most companies will give you a supply of business cards if you regularly attend external meetings (if you don't have any yet, maybe ask the person responsible). They’re a good ice breaker and people are more likely to remember you and call you if they have your business card. Follow up on any interactions with a polite email and you’ll make an excellent first impression, one that your company will surely thank you for if you end up landing that deal or securing that account. Exchanging business cards is usually a two way thing, so it’s also a good way to grow your own personal contacts more generally.
There’s little doubt that networking is crucial when it comes to getting noticed and advancing your career. Just remember to always be courteous and embrace the give and take it involves. It’s tempting to fall into the routine of only connecting with those who stand to bring you the most benefit, but think about what value you can bring to others too. With a little luck, you’ll soon start to be seen as a useful contact and emerging thought leader.