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Has a friend ever asked you, “How can I advance faster in my career?”
Sometimes when friends come to us asking for help and advice, our words and idea flow, we see all the ways they can do better, and we offer our advice for free.
But when faced with the challenge of our own self-improvement and career advancement, we come up short.
This problem was succinctly expressed by the Lewis Carol through the words of his most famous character, Alice, who said, “I give myself very good advice but I very seldom follow it.”
Fear not, we have compiled a list of the best tips and tricks for networking and boosting your career. Wherever you are in your career, we know you’re always looking for a little boost.
1. Become a Linchpin Connector
Seth Godin made the concept of linchpin connectors famous. The goal is to become an essential piece of social machinery that everyone knows and productively depends on.
It’s great when the serendipity of life causes you to introduce someone to their future spouse, but what about being someone who connects everyone in the local community and in turn raises their income, social standing, and happiness?
That’s what a linchpin connector does –– they are the person you go to when you need to be introduced to someone important. Not sure how to become this superstar connector? Keep reading!
2. Network Within Your Company
The easiest first step is to network within your company. Whether you’ve worked there for two weeks or two years, take advantage of the built-in network that surrounds you.
If you work in an office setting, get to know everyone and mention your goals and ambitions to them. You’d be surprised at the connections they might have.
And don’t discount positions like assistants and receptionist –– these gatekeepers have the boss’s ear and can control the flow of information around the entire company.
An impossible to get meeting might open up for you if you invest time developing that connection.
3. Network Within Your Industry
But don’t stop at your company, network out into the greater industry. If you work for a tech company this could mean horizontal networking out into other tech companies –– even internationally.
Or you can network vertically within your industry.
If your company is part of a larger industry that interests you, branch out and make some contacts there, but don’t be afraid to make contacts “below” you too.
Sometimes knowledge of the foundational elements of your industry will put you ahead of your competition.
4. Network Within Your Community
Don’t forget about your local, physical community. Especially in the age of telecommuting and digital conferences, it’s easy to lose touch with the community where you live.
Make sure you’re staying involved in what’s happening locally whether that’s political, environmental, or social. Seemingly small connections you make around town can have big impacts on the local power and influence you’re able to leverage later.
5. Join Toastmasters
All over the world, there are meetups for the famous public speaking group known as Toastmasters.
Whether you are terrified of stepping into a room where you could be expected to speak or you revel in the chance to orate publicly, joining Toastmasters will instantly connect you to a group of people from all walks of life that have one goal in common: self-improvement.
Chances are you won’t be the worst or the best speaker in the room and that range will give you confidence and inspiration to improve.
Warren Buffet famously endorsed developing your public speaking skill as the best way to increase your earning value by 50%.
Most Toastmasters groups meet once a week and have a set format.
There are introductions, then a brief humorist, then a couple prepared speeches followed by evaluations, there is a “word of the day” and finally there is the “table topics” section where members (and visitors!) are welcome to stand and give an on-the-spot-speech for 1-2 minutes.
The entire meeting lasts exactly one hour and you can come as a visiting guest as many times as you’d like while you decide whether or not to join.
6. Join a Gym
Not only will this help you get in shape and be healthier, joining the right gym puts you in direct contact with people in your community.
Even if attending an exercise class isn’t something you’ve ever done before, getting up early and sweating alongside other people will instantly bond you with them.
For those that have a hard time getting up early, those evening classes are just as good if not better!
It’s an easy transition from post-workout chitchat to post-workout drink where you can network and schmooze with people you otherwise wouldn’t come in contact with.
Plus, stying trim, healthy, and fit gives you sense a person power and confidence that can felt by others. Knowing that you can survive that 60min intense Sculpt Yoga class will give you that extra boost when work gets tough.
7. Attend Gallery Openings
Attend gallery opening even if you don’t know the art or anyone else who will be there. Usually, galleries will provide free beverages and light snacks for attendees which definitely helps with the socializing aspect.
Connecting with the art community will give you a whole new international network and even if you majored in art history it will be sure to educate you.
Will some of the openings be a bust? Sure, but that doesn’t mean they are a waste of time.
Even those weird and disappointing opening will be fodder for good storytelling later on, so keep your eyes open, learn something new, sip on some free Pinot, and enjoy the experience.
8. Attend Music Events
Whether it’s a classic concerto, a sold-out stadium show, or a local house concert, music events are a great place to meet people.
Being knowledgeable about the local music scene in your area gives you an edge in conversation and having extra tickets to a show is a great way to connect people from different circles in one place.
If you feel like you’d love to connect two people you know but you don’t want to add the pressure of an intentional sit-down dinner to talk about work, bringing them along to a concert immediately gives everyone a shared experience to relate to and something to talk about later.
One show can create a feeling of comradery that will extend into a professional setting.
Concerts also allow you to spend ample time with someone without having to fill all that time with conversation and this can be an absolute blessing in a world where people are longing to unplug from conversation and the Internet for a few hours.
9. Join/Create a Book/Podcast Club
Book clubs might sound old fashioned but the concept can extend to podcasts, even Netflix shows, and it stands the test of time.
Using a shared artistic experience as a platform to share parts of ourselves with others and explore bigger ideas is a valuable thing to offer your community.
Whether you’re treating Harry Potter as a sacred text or indulging in the latest hardcover thriller, it’s a valuable experience to take time out of your week to connect with others in this way.
Want to bring a bottle of wine and a cheese plate? Even better. You’ll quickly earn the love and ear of everyone in the group.
10. Join (and USE) LinkedIn
While Facebook and Instagram are where most people socialize online, LinkedIn is a professional world of its own. Save the baby pictures and TMI posts for those platforms and focus on building your professional appearance.
Use a quality picture of yourself where you’re facing forward and looking into the camera. Eye contact, even through a photo on a computer screen, conveys confidence which helps you be taken more seriously.
Connect with as many people as you can and offer to write reviews for people’s skills that they have listed if you know that they are good at those skills.
This will inspire others to do the same for you which will help with your rankings in the LinkedIn algorithms.
You can follow professionals in your fields of interest who you’ve never met and colleges that you currently work with. Lewis Howes used LinkedIn to propel himself from broke living on a couch to earning over six figures.
11. Write Emails/DMs to Influencers
Message people directly who you want to meet and offer to take them out for coffee. LinkedIn is an ideal platform for this but email works great too.
If they are an individual whose time is extremely expensive or limited, perhaps swap the offer of coffee with a brief email (no more than 5 lines) asking for 5 minutes of their time on the phone or through email in response to a direct and thoughtful question you have.
Show that you’ve done your research and homework on them and make a compelling argument for why they should give you the time of day.
And if they are kind enough to reply and they give you any advice (such as “read this book” or “do this specific thing”) follower their advice and then report back to them.
This is a great way to keep the conversation going and keep the connection warm.
12. Become an Authority
No one is going to come to you and make you an authority –– you have to claim that title for yourself. Of course, you don’t want to claim false authority, this is very bad PR for yourself and will boost your career in the opposite direction.
Whatever you’re passionate about or want to excel at the best thing to do is practice –– so practice! Want to become the best personal trainer in your state?
Find opportunities to share your knowledge with others in a setting where you are viewed as an authority.
Volunteering even 10 minutes of your time at a local event where you’re able to take the stage and talk about personal fitness and the advantages of personal training (and why you’re the best) will immediately put you in the role of “authority” figures to those in the audience.
Write free articles on the subjects you’re passionate about and make them available to your community. If there is an opportunity to teach a free class to a group of people, do it!
And hand out cards. If you do two events a month you will have engaged in 24 public speaking/value sharing events in one year. Already that makes you more of an authority than most people in your field.
Keep up that pace and you’ll start getting asked to do these events and even paid –– why? Because now you’re an authority!
13. Host Local Meet-up Events
If there aren’t the kind of local events for networking in your area that you are looking for, take that as an opportunity to create your own.
This is how the Womacks got started and they turned that into a massively successful business venture. Follow their lead and create the events you want to attend.
Are there no events for female entrepreneurs in your area? Make one.
Find a location that will host the event in exchange for publicity and then let your community know when and where it’s happening.
The first few events might be small but it will grow once people know that it’s available.
Not only does this make you an authority as the organizer and put you in the role of being a linchpin connector in your community, but it also raises the value of your local community by strengthening bonds and creating partnerships.
It might feel counterintuitive to volunteer your time when you’re trying to boost your career and earn more but giving a few hours out of your month can put you in new situations that stretch your comfort levels, teach you new skills, and build your authority in a new or related field of work.
Becoming a volunteer opens doors and allows access to another world you might not otherwise get to experience, certainly not for free.
You can get passes to festivals, meet authors and thought leaders, and take free classes, simply by volunteering for the set-up or breakdown of certain events.
Whether your a lawyer who wants to offer a few hours of free legal services or you’re a teacher who wants to get out of the classroom and into the woods, you can build nature trails, pick up trash, feed those in need, valet park cars at a fundraising event –– whatever gift of service you have to offer, share it with the whole world.
15. Get a Mentor
Finding a mentor is perhaps the greatest career accelerator there is. Your willingness to respect this person’s time and knowledge is paramount to remember that this isn’t a friendship (although it could certainly become one) it is a mentorship.
When you meet, you are valuing their time and authority and not wasting it on talking about your life and struggles. When they give you assignments, advice, and recommendations, you follow up with your progress and further questions.
This is exactly how the famous StoryGrid podcast got started, so remember that a simple back and forth mentorship can truly blossom into a powerful collaboration that lifts both parties up.
16. Be a Mentor
Of course, the reverse of this is true –– becoming a mentor to someone is just as beneficial. You can’t really walk around looking to become someone’s mentor, but as you establish yourself as an authority and grow your local community you will begin to be sought after in different ways.
Be picky and know that while you don’t have to feel immediate chemistry with your mentee, you do need to not resist and resent giving your time to them.
If it’s not a good fit, be courageous enough to let them know directly and kindly.
Ghosting someone when you are in the position of power is beyond lame and the chances that someone who reaches up to you will later be someone you are put in the position to reach up to are surprisingly high –– so follow the golden rule and treat others the way you would want to be treated.
17. Make Your Boss Look Good
This is the secret to every successful assistant position. The more you can make your boss look good the better your career trajection will be.
This doesn’t mean that you don’t take credit where it’s due but it means your success comes from setting your boss up for success.
Little details like following up about appointments you know they have let slip through the cracks will help them perform their job better and remain less stressed.
When you work as someone’s assistant you see all the details of their lives and showing discretion while offering needed help is essential in becoming irreplaceable (or better yet priceless).
Being organized and aware enough to remind your boss about the important details of a returning client before a meeting with them will get you noticed and rewarded much faster than making sure you look good and all your work is done perfectly.
18. Think Beyond Your Job Title
Even if your job has a clear beginning and ending points (and a clear beginning and ending pay…) live your work into the positions you want. Even if it’s not your job to recruit clients, that doesn’t mean you can’t connect the dots to get some new clients.
You may not be in the position to officially recruit and sign clients on but you can connect potential clients with who is able to do that.
Make sure you let them know it was your lead so that you can get the intellectual credit due.
If this becomes a pattern, the intellectual credit will manifest as much more concrete credit, such as a pay raise or bonus or special perks –– even a promotion.
Remember, whatever your position, if you increase company reach and money you are going to be appreciated.
Remember that giving value is the greatest way to get value in return so expand your reach beyond your current status and you will find yourself in a new role in no time.
Career paths have changed and in the new global gig-economy, there are tons of ways to get from where you are to where you want to be but it all comes down to one major factor: who you know (and who-you-know knows).
Being a a gracious, giving, and delightful person to work with and be around will open many doors for you and get you where you want to be.
And of course remain open to changing your path or career plan along the way. You might find yourself drawn in a different direction than you thought you were headed but that doesn’t mean the connections you made in your industry are lost work.
The art of networking and connections is that the wider your network is the more people you are connected with through proxy so pivoting and career shifts are made even easier too.
The connections you make will carry you forward wherever you go and the skills you learn (public speaking, knowledge about art, books, and all the benefits of personal fitness) will make you a happier, healthier, more well-rounded person, which is just the kind of person you need to be to put your career in overdrive and succeed.