How do you actually network to land a new job? Microsoft’s ex-VP of HR explains

    The key to networking is to expand your visibility beyond the people you work with every day.

    Courtesy of Chris Williams

    Networking is key to finding new job opportunities and advancing your career.Make the discussion all about the person you’re networking with. It takes years to build a rich web of connections but a great network can last a lifetime.

    There’s no better way to find a new job than through a network. Oftentimes, the best hires and best roles are found through people you know.

    With a robust set of connections, when that dream job opening comes up, one of your network friends could say, “Hey, I know a great person for that role.” For this reason, people constantly say you need to network to get ahead.

    But how exactly do you do that?

    In my over 40 years in business, including being the VP of HR at Microsoft, I’ve seen people truly excel at building career-enhancing networking. Here’s what they do.

    Connect with coworkers outside your department

    The key to success in networking is to expand your visibility beyond the people you work with every day. Get outside your own bubble.

    When you get exposure beyond your immediate sphere, you multiply your presence. Those new people introduce you to more new people, and the size of your network expands exponentially.

    Yes, it’s fun to interact with those who share your interests and skills. But if you stay entirely within your area, your network will never expand beyond it. The trick is to look outside your discipline. If you work in finance, find people in sales, marketing, development, HR, manufacturing, or wherever. Get to know people far and wide.

    Learn how every part of the organization works. It will help you perform your job better and build allies across the company. “Yes, I know Anne who works over there, let me talk to her about that.”

    Step outside your bubble and network with other organizations in your industry

    Better yet, get outside your current organization. Look to other companies in your industry that are doing interesting things. Consider organizations that work far differently than your current one.

    The value here is in understanding how things work elsewhere. How different companies handle the challenges you see every day. How do they motivate people? Work together across disciplines? Hire great talent? Handle lean times?

    Every organization faces many of the same challenges, and it can be incredibly enlightening to see how other people and teams handle them. It makes you smarter and more valuable to your company. You’d want to be able to say, “I’ve seen how they do it in the sprinkler system industry. They handle it like this.”

    The best thing is to build a range of options in your career, as you see the broader world around you.

    Where do you look?

    But where do you find all these people? They’re everywhere.

    Inside your organization, the people to network with are in your budget meeting, your HR training class, your company all-hands meeting, and that monthly Zoom meeting that you hate but have to attend.

    Outside your organization, they’re at that conference you went to last year. On social media talking about the frustrating parts of their industry. They’re in the Reddit forum for your discipline or on that gaming Discord server.

    They’re the other parent at your kid’s soccer match. The neighbor down the street, or the person across the room at church. The other volunteer at the nonprofit fundraiser. Or the other hiker in the group you occasionally go to.

    The right people to network with are literally all around you, you just have to reach out and ask. “Hey, I’d love a coffee or a Zoom to understand more about what you do.” Almost no one would refuse that conversation.

    Be curious

    But I don’t know anything about those other disciplines or organizations, you say?

    That’s the good part. That’s what’s fun. Meeting people like this is a chance to learn, and to broaden your scope.

    The key is to be curious and ask lots of great questions. Not just what do you do, but tell me about how that works. What does a typical day or month look like? What are your biggest challenges?

    Also, dig deeper and ask more engaging questions. “Gee, that seems like it would be tough to make progress. How do you keep motivated?” “That sounds like it would be cool, what are some of the big wins you’ve had?

    The conversation should be about the person you’re networking with

    Remember in these conversations to make the discussion all about the person you’re networking with. Or at least mostly about them. Ask great questions to get them talking about themselves, their job, their challenges, and their successes.

    Don’t dive into personal things, unless they invite it. There are too many sensitive areas, and it’s too easy to step on toes. Just keep it all about work. All about what they do, their role, and their company.

    You’d be surprised at the results. People love a good conversation like this, where they get a chance to sit with a good listener and share what they know. Best of all, they’ll think you’re smart and thoughtful. Just because you showed interest, asked great questions, and listened thoughtfully.

    The results take time but can last forever

    The results of great networking aren’t fast. They don’t happen in days or weeks. It takes years to build a rich web of connections.

    But a great network can last a lifetime. If you simply keep in touch with the many people you’ve met, those connections will endure forever. And the payback will be a rich life of options and opportunities.

    Networking also builds resilience in your career. If your company is headed into hard times, there’s nothing better than a network of people who know you. They will defend you when you need it and be there to help when you need a new job. In conversations they might say, “We should keep them around, let’s find them a spot” or “I know they’re hiring over there, let me see if I can find a connection for you to talk to.”

    Make your network a priority. Try to make a new connection each week. Soon, you’ll have a rich network as invested in your success as you are.

    Chris Williams is the former VP of HR at Microsoft. He’s an executive-level advisor and consultant with over 40 years of experience leading and building teams.

    Read the original article on Business Insider


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