The Power of Networking

“It’s not about what you know, it’s about you who you know.”

Thanks for that sage fucking wisdom, Forbes.

Networking, no matter how extroverted you might be, is complete and total hell. Something feels innately wrong about talking with people for your own career pursuits.

That being said, I just landed an amazing job in the absolutely packed, employer-driven Austin market. Here, talent is everywhere, and jobs for “unicorns” are the norm. Well, when everyone is an Austin unicorn, no one is.

So how did I find a job at an amazing marketing agency with culture to spare?

The Power of Networking

I started “networking” without realizing it — by being service-minded and friendship-driven. All the sudden the shittiness wasn’t so horrible. I wasn’t networking for my own career… and that made me a unicorn among unicorns.

Steps to Successful Networking:

1. Develop an online presence

Schedule your social media. Run your accounts like a business. What are your three main values? What do you want to communicate with the world?

Once your social accounts are active, you need to start reaching out to people. It doesn’t matter if you think the person won’t answer you or even see your post. Tweet to your latest podcast that you listened to on your drive to work and tell them how wonderful they are. Tag your friend from that conference in your Instagram story and give an empower recommendation. Write about that amazing speaker on LinkedIn and thank her for her contribution.

Speaking of LinkedIn — USE IT. Even when you aren’t job hunting. Write down your thoughts, interact with your community and help out people who are job hunting.

2. Reach out with purpose

To network, you need to care about the person you are reaching out to, which means respecting their time and their goals.

When you send that fateful message, be clear about what you are asking for, and let them know what is in it for them. More than likely, that thing is not helping you.

Sample Message:

Hi Laura, 

It was so nice running into you last weekend! I’ve been looking into the new Instagram API release. I would love to share ideas with you and pick your brain about the changing Instagram strategy over coffee soon. Are you available Wednesday at 10am or Friday at 8am? 

Coffee is on me! We can meet up North near you at Thunderbird on Manor.

Sarah Waller

Never take a meeting to ask for a job or just to “network”. People are super busy, and although I know you are amazing, you might not be a top priority for their day.

The basic idea: Reach out with a real purpose that both of you can benefit from. Don’t reach out because you need a job (or only when you need a job). Reach out to make a real connection.

Even if you aren't looking for a job, there's power in networking. Click To Tweet

3. Attend events

This is the easiest way to meet great people in your field. If you are looking for a job, go to a happy hour and just talk with people. People are hiring you, not a walking resume.

As humans, we are wired to enjoy community (even introverts need community!). Meet those amazing people, and listen to them. Nothing is worse than going to an event and hearing the word “networking”. Just enjoy people, and follow up later if you have a valid reason to connect. Until then, keep following their story on social media… or catch up with them the next event.

In Austin, a few great places to check events out are (excuse my marketing slant):

4. Network when you don’t have to

People always jump on the networking chain when they need a job. Don’t be that person. Maybe, instead, you are in a place to give back or grow your knowledge. Network when it isn’t necessary.

While this may seem like reaching out without a purpose, “networking when you don’t have to” has more purpose that networking when you life depends on it. Talking with people and connecting with your community of learners is the best way to grow as a person, and find a job fast when you need it.

5. Join networking groups

I cannot say this enough. Join networking groups. Get out there. Make real connections for the sake of making real connections. Before you know it you will have a network for your career and for friendships.

I joined the Women In Digital group here in Austin. This group invites me to monthly events (cough, cough, number 3), connects me with a group of peers, and adds me to a slack channel with 900+ people who are smarter than I am.

Within a few months membership, my peer group mentor helped me land a new management job at SocialWithin, another peer mentor designed my logo for my new blog Impact on Landing, a slack member gave me sage advice on launching a nonprofit, an Austin techie helped me realize my dream of “van life”, and everyone has supported my victories and struggles.

Of equal importance, I have helped a peer mentor with job hunting, another peer mentor with a tough work situation, a slack member with a software issue, and supported everyone’s victories and struggles.

And that brings us to….

6. Give more than you get

Do you believe in karma? Or Newton’s Third Law?

Everything has an equal and opposite reaction. Give more, and you will get more. Both spiritually and in your career. Approach networking as a chance to give to people in your community, field or demographic. When it’s your time to take, all the sudden a job will sprout organically, or your friend will connect you with someone who has the answer to that problem at work driving you nuts.

7. Rethink networking

People in Austin can be greedy with networking. I’ve met so many people that ask me immediately for a job or to recommend them after a few minutes of chit-chatter. Just don’t.

The power of networking in Austin starts with re-thinking networking. Getting a job isn’t the effect of networking. It’s an added bonus. You network to create real connections and make a difference. This will set you apart from everyone and their mother sending messages on LinkedIn to talk about an open position or to merely “connect” over coffee.

Networking in Austin is the most powerful thing you can do in your career, especially for us just starting out.

As much as we hate it, the Forbes cliche wisdom of knowing the right people is the honest truth. Just make sure you actually take the time to get to know them.

People are more than their LinkedIn bylines.

Have questions? Feel free to purposefully connect with me. Who knows — I may give more than I take.