Networking Not Working? 3 DIY Opportunities to Advance in Life
“It’s not what you know, it’s who you know,” is often repeated advice, (Cross and Thomas). In college, the pressures to begin building a strong network for academic, professional, and personal development start early. Being an out of state, undergraduate student thrown into a high intensive work environment at an academic level, on top of working part time to support myself financially, not to mention the natural desire to build social relationships, networking has been vital to my success in all realms of life. For me, it has never been a tool for advancement, rather it has been a tool for survival.
There are many “how to’s” and “what not to do’s” when one begins to build their network. However, even with a strong foundation of pre-existing contacts, it is easy to get lost somewhere in the middle and to forget about all of the opportunities you can create yourself in order to help you reach your goals, boost your network, and gain success in whatever it is that you are doing. In my two short years in college thus far, I have gathered a number of strategies that, once becoming conscious of, I can employ in order to effectively develop my network and personal success.
Be open minded & always put in your best effort.
Writing off any opportunity to try something new or meet someone outside of your existing circle because you don’t think it “fits” with your career goals or personal interests is silly. Some of my favorite experiences and closest friends and colleagues have come from me trying something new and loving it! This is not to say that you should force yourself to do something you hate, but it is never a bad time to expand your horizons. This, in turn, also expands your network.
Make yourself a valuable asset.
In every position I’ve had, whether that be as a volunteer, an intern, or an employee, I make it a personal goal of mine to seek out leadership roles and unique responsibilities. This makes my membership of each organization or company I am a part of meaningful. There are always ways to be more involved, and often times you have the power to create those opportunities. For example, I started off as a leasing agent with an apartment complex in town, and within the first couple of weeks, I noticed the manager working on something called a Market Survey. She would call our competitors to get their stats for the week. It’s something that anyone could do, she just hadn’t delegated it yet. I offered to help place calls if she ever needed a hand, and instantly she was thrilled that I offered, allowing me to completely take over this weekly task. By doing so, I now have a set job every Monday in addition to my regular responsibilities which has given me the chance to personally make connections with the people I talk to every week. This also showed that I am willing and capable of taking on a more prominent role within the company.
Asking questions is one of the most valuable things you can do to increase your network. For one, I would have missed out on the previous opportunity I described if I had not asked if there was anything more I could do. Asking questions can be work related, or it could be asking for a business card, scheduling a time to meet one-on-one with a mentor, employer, or colleague, or sometimes, it can even literally be asking for a job. Asking questions shows interest, initiative, and intelligence.
Networking is important, but it can be confusing and overwhelming. Some of the best ways to begin building and to strengthen your network begin with being genuine in going about doing so. Being open minded, meaningfully contributing to your work, and asking questions are all great strategies to employ in your everyday life that can make networking much less daunting, and much more natural.