One of my favorite things to do is coach students and recent graduates on career development. It’s such a fun season- resumes, interviews, figuring out what they want to do and who they want to be. But it’s also an incredibly vulnerable season. Interviews are scary. Building a network is becoming more and more complicated as the internet takes over and sending your resume into cyberspace seems less reliable than finding a pickup truck in LA.
We’re in the middle of a blog series on “5 Conversations you should be having” and today we’re talking about building a network.
I get a lot of emails from young professionals asking to “pick my brain” which more times than not is code for: Can I send you my resume and can you get me a job? Unfortunately, I (and other professionals) typically see right through that line.
So if that doesn’t work, what does? How do you authentically build a network?
Here’s the key: You don’t wait until you need a job.
Brian Grazer, a producer in LA and an author, wrote a book called The Curious Mind on ‘curiosity conversations’ that have deeply impacted his career and contributed to his creation of some iconic movies and shows. He spent years meeting with all different kinds of people with no intention of personal gain, except to learn from them.
The premise is this: Ask questions. Ask questions to everyone. Sit down with your neighbor, with your coworker, with people in industries that are different from yours and ask questions. Train yourself to be interested in others. If you need any pointers, listen to Hank Fortener’s podcast (founder of AdoptTogether), where he sits down with people, purely because he finds them interesting, and asks them about everything and anything. It’s one of my new favorite things to listen to.
When you ask for a meeting or a phone date, make it clear that you aren’t looking for a job. And then hold yourself to that in the conversation. Walk into these conversations prepared with a list of questions and the posture of a student. Be really nerdy and take notes! And recognize that people are busy but most enjoy spending time with people genuinely interested in learning.
A few weeks ago, a friend asked what my five year plan is… Maybe I shouldn’t admit this publicly, but I have no idea! What I do know is that I am focused on laying groundwork right now so when opportunities do come up within my company or personally, I’m the best candidate.
While I can be focusing on professional development as a way to lay groundwork- getting an MBA, learning Spanish, learning web developing skills- I’ve found that authentically and intentionally building a network is potentially more effective (and more fun!). You’ll be surprised at what you can learn from people.
Whose job are you curious about? Who do you interact with but know nothing about? Who can you learn from?
Get curious. Ask thoughtful questions. Be a student. And as an added benefit, build your network.
Read the 1st post in “Conversations you should be having” by clicking here.