The concept of networking often comes with an intimidation factor. Tracking down individuals in coveted positions and attempting to initiate a relationship and (even scarier) demonstrate your value to them, can make many of us go weak in the knees. So, now that I’ve sufficiently freaked you out, let’s reframe networking. The key word to keep in mind is relationship. When developing a network, start with the people you know. In the world of LinkedIn, these people would be called your 1st-degree connections. Friends, coworkers, professors, supervisors, and family members are just a few of the folks in your immediate network. So, with family vacations on the horizon – and Independence Day around the corner – let’s focus in on family.
Looking at my own family, I have access to people with SHOCKINGLY varied professional experience:
- Residential building contractor
- Finance manager in the field of international development
- Classically trained Pilates instructor
- Community developer
- Building manager for the federal government
- Global health researcher
- Visual artist
- Computer programmer
Not only do these people have insight into their own positions, but also they understand their fields and the various positions available. They can tell you about their education or training, salary ranges, pros and cons of the field, and where you would likely live if you worked in their field. Also, perhaps most essential, these people can connect you with their immediate connections (2nd-degree connections for me) – and suddenly a handful of connections becomes 20, 30, 40 people in your immediate network.
This doesn’t even scratch the surface of your connections through past jobs, universities (alumni network, hello?), friends, family friends, neighbors, professors, student org members, and so on. Were I to look at these people, I could expand that list to include TV writers, historical conservation technicians, museum coordinators, movie trailer editors, and fashion designers.
So, while you’re enjoying pool time and cookouts this weekend, take some time to ask a few key questions to the people you’re closest with. I guarantee the depth of career knowledge in your own family will surprise you.
By Erika Peyton, CLDC Assistant Director for Employer Relations and Marketing