Join Lauren Bacon for an in-depth discussion in this video How to network and enjoy it, part of Web Career Clinic Weekly.
- Hi, I'm Lauren Bacon and welcome to this week's edition of the Web Career Clinic where I'll explore how to build a career you love making good stuff on the web. Today I'm going to talk about something that a lot of us dread and not just because it has a horrible name, networking. That kind of makes it sound like everyone around me is just a cog and a machine and I'm trying to get them to work for me. No wonder no one I know enjoys networking. Whenever somebody tells you to get out and network, what they're really saying is that being well-connected is essential to having a successful career but your version of well-connected might be very different from somebody else's and being well-connected doesn't mean raining down business cards on people like confetti.
That's like advertising spam. So instead of networking, I prefer to say that I'm building community, nurturing my connections and sometimes just connecting with others. As I see it, there are three main places where you want to focus when you're thinking about building your network. The first is diversity. Get out of your comfort zone and talk to people who are different than you. Recently, research has shown that the number one predictor of career success is knowing a large and diverse community of people from different disciplines because the more diverse your colleagues are, the more you'll be exposed to new ideas.
So start by making a list of the people you connect with most often and ask yourself how similar or different they are to one another. Everyone could use more diversity in their lives. Myself included. Consider making time for people who will expose you to fresh perspectives. Next up, realness. The business world is full of networking events where you never really get a chance to know anyone. In fact, the entire structure encourages people to put on a facade.
I gave up on those a long time ago. Not only because they make me uncomfortable but because I've never gotten good results from them, which makes sense because how likely would you be to recommend someone for a job or a project if you'd only ever made small talk with them for three minutes? Simply put, not very likely. So instead of going to so called networking events, I started going to events that I was more interested in like my local WordPress meetups, UX workshops, events for a small independent business owners and so on.
In those contexts, my genuine passion for the subject matter and interest in building community showed and naturally I connected with the other people who showed up. That's my version of keeping it real while building business connections. Your version will probably look different. You might prefer to build connections online or in a different niche but think about what subjects you're really interested in and start there. People are attracted to passion so others will be more interested in talking to me if I'm excited about an idea than they will if I look like I'd rather be somewhere else.
The third and final factor in community building that's actually fun and productive is showing up. And I don't just mean showing up at events. I mean showing up for people when they need you. One way to do this is to be consistent about reaching out to people. Show that you're interested in what they're up to. Plan a coffee date to hear about their latest projects. Send them a text that says, I was just thinking of you. How are things? When you see them, ask questions that might give you an opportunity to give them a hand like what kind of support can I give you or is there anything I can do to help? Obviously, you have to do all of this in a way that's genuine for you.
Realness, remember? But if you've built connections with people with whom you share interests and you show up in a real way then helping them out in some way is a great opportunity to show them what you're made of. And that's how you build the kind of trust that generates meaningful referrals. It's not rocket science but when we get into career building mode, sometimes we forget that it can be that simple and to stick with what feels right for us. That's it for this week's Web Career Clinic. Tune in next time as I explore another topic for web professionals.
If you have questions about your web career, hit me up on Twitter at @laurenbacon using the hashtag #ProWebClinic See you next week.
If you're interested in a career in web design, programming, UX, SEO, project management, or content development, this course is a great place to start. Learn about the career options that are available to you, identify a path that fits your skills and preferences, and look a few steps ahead of where you are now, to plan your professional future.