Dear Career Tips: No Time To Network
From Career Tips, 2019 Volume 6, June 2019
Each time I find myself in transition, I kick myself for not networking more while I was working, but while I'm working, I'm so focused on my job, I lose the motivation to get out there and network. Have you ever written about career searching tips while you're happily employed?
Dear Too Busy:
The first thing that's required is to change your mindset. Thinking of networking as being for a career search will hold you back.
Networking is not just, or even mostly, for job searching. Done properly, it makes you more valuable to your current employer, and gets you known by key people so that new opportunities continually arise at your current company. That is just as important, or arguably even more important, when you are happily employed.
I started out as an Actuary, and it generally takes 5-7 years to achieve the FSA designation, during which time 'actuarial students' rotate to various parts of the company. As I approached my final rotation, a former boss reached out to recruit me for his operation, which was what I really wanted. He opened a position just for me. That’s what can happen when you become a known quantity to people of influence around your company.
Several years later, I moved to a new company, where I was responsible for a large product line with which I had limited experience. I tapped into and grew my network among people with expertise in that area at different companies. That brought me quickly up to speed, and let me bring external industry insights into discussions, making me more valuable to my company.
Fast forward to 1996, and my company was merging into our parent. Basically, all officers were to be let go at the end of the year. I was virtually the only one to be offered a position as an officer of the parent - someone I had gotten to know through a company leadership course came to me to offer me that job.
My advice is to set some networking goals that you can work into your schedule. Possibilities:
- Plan one or two lunches a week with someone you don’t work with on any regular basis.
- Schedule a half hour meeting with yourself a few times a week to pore through your LinkedIn network, address book, etc., finding a few people you haven’t spoken to for awhile to call, drop an email or send a LinkedIn message.
- Find at least one professional event to attend each month. These could be industry association meetings, courses, company events, outside career networking group meetings, alumni events, ...
You don’t have to spend a lot of time on this, just make whatever you are going to do a regular part of your calendar, so you get in the habit.
And this will also make you much more prepared for when your situation changes, and you really are in a career search.