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How to Strengthen Your Network When You’re Just Starting Out
By Holly Raider November 13, 2020
When you’re just starting out, making new connections and strengthening your professional network are vital to getting to where you want to go. But the guidance you need, like how to thrive in a new role or pursue a promotion, can be difficult to find in your inner circle.
New employees tend to make professional connections based on proximity (colleagues they see the most) or commonalities (the colleagues most like themselves). But that’s a mistake. When you network with colleagues like you or near you, you create an echo chamber which circulates only the same ideas about the same opportunities. That sameness benefits neither you nor your peers, especially when it comes to innovation and growth.
While it may be intimidating to leave the safety of your circle, you should. Strong, diverse networks help you stay on top of the latest trends in your industry, meet new collaborators, and gain access to opportunities or resources that can help you be more effective in your work. The best (yet often overlooked) way to build this kind of network is to focus on your lateral connections: peers who work in different areas of your company. Many early career employees don’t recognize how powerful these relationships can be.
Lateral connections give you a broader, more varied view of your organization, one that ultimately shapes the quality of your work and gives you access to breakthrough opportunities. For instance, say you are a sales associate who has limited interactions with a coordinator on the product development team. Taking the initiative to form a relationship with that person could expose you to the innovations they are working on, allowing you to gain a deeper understanding of each product and equipping you with the personal stories behind their development. Those insights and stories will enable you to be far more effective in making a sale. Meanwhile, the product coordinator will learn from you exactly how a customer thinks when deciding whether to buy the product, allowing your colleague to make smarter suggestions fueled by customer insights during brainstorming meetings.
This is just one example of how mutually beneficial these cross-departmental relationships can be. Strengthening your interdepartmental network can also give you access to opportunities that may be brewing in other parts of your company before they become public.
So, how exactly can you start?
Look for people you can learn from.
During company-wide or cross-departmental meetings, pay attention and make note of the people and projects you find most interesting. It’s best to be strategic about this — don’t reach out to only those who seem like they’d make a good friend; reach out to those whose work has some intersection with your own. If you’re an editor, think about connecting with the graphic designers whose work complements your writing. If you’re in finance, consider reaching out to your peers in sourcing and discuss with them how the company manages currency fluctuations or transportation costs.
Take advantage of (virtual) meetups.
A helpful way to build lateral connections is by attending or planning events with people who are not on your team. If you are working from home, virtual group happy hours or coffee breaks are good options. Conversations that occur during these meetings are often informal and free flowing. If your office has opened back up, you could drop a message to a couple peers in other departments whom you’d like to connect with and ask if they’d like to grab a quick (socially distanced) lunch. Remember, your goal should be building strong relationships, not just exchanging notes about work. That starts with getting to know people.
5 Mistakes to Avoid When Making a Career Change
There are numerous reasons why people choose to change careers. Some come to realize they don’t enjoy the career path they’ve chosen. Others might not mind their current type of work but would prefer to pursue something they’re more passionate about doing. For others, a career change might be forced upon them due to a job loss, a change in the direction of an industry, or something like the COVID-19 pandemic.
Regardless of why you might be making a career change, you’re probably wondering how to do it — and how not to do it. Continue reading to learn five of the top mistakes to avoid when making a career change.
1. Not Conducting an Honest Self-Assessment
Career change advice experts suggest performing an honest self-assessment to know if a career change is the right decision. Are you willing to put in the effort required to make the career change? Are you willing to learn new skills and competencies when needed? Do you understand why you need a career change? The answers to these types of questions will determine whether or not a career change is right for you.
2. Not Updating Your Supporting Materials
Anytime you’re considering changing jobs, you need to update your resume, cover letter, and LinkedIn profile. This is especially important when changing careers. Your resume should highlight your potential for success in a new career, which means highlighting transferable skills and any volunteer work or coursework that align with your goal. Your LinkedIn profile should reflect your resume, and your cover letter should be tailored to each position you apply to while also highlighting why you’re making a career change.
3. Not Being Realistic About the Change Process
Making a career change isn’t for everyone. When making a career change, you often have to start at the bottom and work your way up the ladder. For those seeking more senior-level positions, landing a job can take anywhere from six months to a year. And for non-senior positions, finding a position can still take two to three months or longer.
Making a career change is doable and is typically best for those who are certain they need a career change. Just keep in mind that patience is required. With some time and effort on your part, you’ll be successful in your search.
4. Confusing a Career Change With Changing Jobs
Changing a job means you’re looking for a job that’s similar to the role you currently have or have held in the past. As with changing careers, changing jobs takes effort. The strategy, however, is different.
Changing careers means that you are considering a significant shift in roles and responsibilities, changing industries, or exploring a brand new line of work. Unless you’re doing a total flip-flop, such as going from a marketing specialist to a dentist, many of your skills will be transferable and support you in landing a job. For example, a marketing manager will typically have transferable skills if the new career involves sales or HR work. Transferable skills might include leadership, people skills, and the ability to work well under pressure.
5. Trying to Go It Alone
Learning the ropes on how to change careers successfully takes time. Working with a career advisor or coach can make a world of difference. A career coach is a cheerleader in your corner, guiding you through the ups and downs of the job search process. From helping you conduct a thorough self-assessment to updating your resume to coaching you on career change cover letters and interviews, a career coach will do everything possible to help you land the job of your dreams.
Now you know some of the top mistakes to avoid when changing careers. Follow the above career change advice to better navigate the career change process. With patience, tenacity, and perseverance, you’ll find success in no time.
Ready to make a change? Browse our directory of 56 industry-focused talent communities to get started.
|Adjust Your Job Search for This Moment|
|Looking for a job is never an easy process, but it feels particularly daunting right now — not just because of the state of the economy, but also because the pandemic is changing the nature of work so drastically. If you’re on the job market, there are several things you can do to increase your chances of success. Tap your network to find out about job openings: Knowing someone at the company you’re applying to will give you an advantage. Brush up your resume and cover letter, and be sure to include any experience that signals your success in high-pressure work environments, since so many companies are in crisis mode. If you do secure an interview, prepare by getting familiar with the video-conferencing technology, researching the company’s pandemic response, and setting up a professional-looking background. Because you won’t get as much non-verbal feedback during the interview, focus on conveying warmth and establishing an emotional connection. Most importantly, throughout this process, take it easy on yourself. It may feel like you’re under a lot of pressure, but you’ll fare better if you show yourself compassion — the same way you would a close friend.|
|This tip is adapted from “How to Nail a Job Interview — Remotely,” by Amy Gallo|