Networking

4 Painless Steps to Grow Your Network (even while you’re happily employed)

grow your network while employed

We all know that we should be networking throughout our careers.

It’s often bestowed advice on blogs like this. But it can be really tough to get in that mindset when everything is peachy keen at work.

I was talking to a client yesterday who eventually wants to run her own creative business but for now is happy at her current company, a fast growing tech startup. She mentioned she’s been doing a lot of networking and relationship building with people at the company.

That’s GREAT- do not get me wrong here- but this is exactly when it makes sense to reach out past your immediate sphere of influence.

Why You Need to Grow Your Network While Employed

  • Get less insular. While the ideas at your company are undoubtedly great, with all the close connecting and hanging out, similar ideas and patterns can start to form. Psychologists (of which I am NOT) call the phenomenon “group think” and it can unwittingly stifle creativity if it becomes pervasive enough. Getting ideas from outside- in the same industry and other industries- keeps it fresh on the inside.
  • Mergers & Acquisitions. These days, it’s almost as if we hear Facebook or Google acquire a new company every other day! Obviously, this one is industry specific, but if you’re in a hot field or work for a start-up, for example, it’s especially pertinent to keep the lines of communication open. And I don’t mean that in a doomsday kind of way- it’s just smart for your career progression should you find yourself out of a job unexpectedly during or after an acquisition.
  • Career Trajectory: In the case of my client I mentioned, she eventually wants to run a creative endeavor. Not right now and maybe not in the next couple of years, but when she does want to, she wants to have some contacts, business buddies, and resources to help her. In other words, if this is you- you have other career interests in mind long terms- you want to think about going from 30MPH to 60MPH, not 0 to 60MPH, in one fell swoop.

Also read: The Truth About Using Informational Interviews to Land a Job

Ok, got it. But how do I keep this top of mind when I am happy where I’m at?

There’s no shortage of ways to go about this, so I’m going to list out a few ideas to get your creative juices flowing here.

4 Painless Ways to Grow Your Network

  1. One Event Per Month: At the beginning of the month, look through the calendars of the networking groups you get email from and make a list of 3-5 events that would help you meet people and grow connections with people in your industry and/or if you’re like my client, with people in your down-the-road-field. Check your calendar and pick 1 event to go to per month. Buy a ticket or if it’s free, reserve your place right then and there and add it to your calendar. Don’t double book yourself for that day. It’s sacred! You put the effort in to find the event- now show up!
  2. One Coffee Date/Lunch Per Month: Keep up with contacts in a casual informal setting like over coffee or lunch. Get to know each other personally and help each other out in an informal way. Find out what they’re working on or looking for and keep your eyes peeled for opportunities for them. Eventually, I recommend bumping this up to two-three coffees per month, but this is a solid foundation to start with.
  3. Find New People Online: That is not meant in a creepy way at all. It will be a little dependent on industry for this one too. For example, I think this is less relevant for legal and finance roles and more relevant for creative, tech, marketing, social impact, etc kind of roles. See who’s doing what you want to do or see who’s in the same field as you at other companies. Follow them and see what they’re up to. For example, my client follows someone on Instagram in her area who hosts monthly creative meetups. Score! That’s an ideal way to meet someone you wouldn’t normally meet and learn and grow from the opportunities they are putting out there.
  4. Limit Company Outings: If there’s a weekly happy hour and two dinners a month and a quarterly off-site, it’s ok to pick and choose. I’m not saying stop going or only go to one thing- especially if you enjoy it, but in the above example, maybe pick two of the happy hours and one of the dinners and go to the quarterly offsite. It’s all about balance here. AND if you’re meeting new people with fresh ideas that you can introduce to the company as a candidate or collaborator, that shows that your above efforts also helped your company too. Win-win!

Also read: Networking for Introverts: 7 Steps to Complete Mastery of Any Social Event

How do you keep networking top of mind when you’re happy at work? Let us know in the comments below!

About the Author

Jill Ozovek is a certified career coach in New York City. Her practice focuses on helping Millennial and mid-career women find and develop careers that align with their passions. For more info on your own career change and Jill’s Career Change Kitchen course, click here.