Networking at Work: How to Accelerate Your Professional Growth and Build Your Career
Many professionals take advantage of the numerous opportunities to network outside of their workplace, however underestimate the importance of networking at work. Networking within your company is key to developing new skills and identifying opportunities for advancement.
In this Ellevate Network Jam Session, Eliza Shanley, founder and managing partner of Women@Work Network, LLC, shares a strategic approach to networking at work. Eliza covers how to effectively develop a career strategy, personal brand and mentoring relationships.
It starts with developing expertise “The quest for the agile organization has changed the nature of what we call a job. Jobs are turning into roles, roles are becoming more highly specialized and the new currency of value is expertise, not simply experience,”said Josh Bersin — a Forbes Magazine contributor and author of the article, The End of a Job as We Know It.
When it comes to career counseling and search and placement, we often talk about experience. However, it is your expertise that will help you land the job, offer great job security and make your career more interesting.
Career success sits at the intersection of personal and organizational goals.
You first need to identify the opportunities that will move you forward within your organization. Personal analysis and business reflection are also important to your career progression. It’s this kind of preparation that instills confidence and leaves you poised for success.
“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity,”
Seneca the Younger, a Roman Stoic philosopher.
Developing Your Career Strategy
Step 1: Taking Stock of Your Career
You need to have a clear understanding of your current situation. In assessing your career, ask yourself a series of questions:
- What is your degree of specialization?
- What are your career priorities and what motivates you?
- What are the characteristics of your “dream job,” in terms of salary/benefits, growth potential, work environment, commute?
Step 2: Growing Your Career Through a Deliberate Approach
Where do you see yourself in five years and how will you navigate to that place? A clearly articulated set of goals helps you to work towards this vision.
Start by setting short- and long-term goals. Consider how your goals align with your company’s goals. Also, strive to make your goals SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-bound).
Your strategy should identify a target list of opportunities aligned with your priorities.
- Consider where you will offer the most value — and don’t be afraid to think outside the box.
- Leverage your network by identifying “access routes” to your target opportunities. You can then promote your skills and expertise via a strong personal brand.
Step 3: Define Your Professional Brand
Through your professional brand, you can articulate what you want your employer, colleagues and networking contacts to know about you.
- Body of work: Timeline and trajectory of your career; Where you have contributed your skills?
- Reputation: What do other people think of you? What skills are you known for? What is your expertise?
- Accomplishments: What are the key achievements you point to for demonstrating professional success?
- Network: Who do you know and who knows you? How well are you connected in your industry?
- Definitive skills: What are the core skills that you bring to the table?
Step 4: Successfully communicate your professional brand
Develop an elevator pitch or a paragraph summary statement that distills your professional brand. This should clearly state who you are as a professional. It can also be added to the beginning of your resume or onto your LinkedIn profile.
- Use adjectives to describe your work style
- Include specific areas of expertise
Step 5: Effective Networking at Work
The most powerful tool you have in career development is effective networking. To be successful, networking needs to be purposeful, specific and reciprocal. This can be achieved using the following methodology:
- Create a list of contacts throughout your company and throughout your industry. Strive to reach beyond your immediate circle.
- Determine how each contact fits into your overall career strategy.
- Assign a purpose or request to each networking contact.
- Be prepared to communicate your value clearly.
- Offer to share your expertise.
Step 6: Beyond Networking: Mentoring
Mentor relationships allow both the mentor and mentored to develop new talents and hone leadership skills. A mentor should offer insight, perspective and provide career direction.
When identifying your mentor, keep your goals in mind:
- Return to the “taking stock of your career” and strategy exercise (step 1)
- What personality complements yours?
- Define your goal for growth: What are your strengths and weaknesses? How can a mentor guide you?
- Manage expectations
- Look both within and outside your organization
Step 7: Become a mentor
Also explore opportunities to mentor others. Mentoring offers great personal satisfaction. This allows you to give back, while you grow, hone your leadership skills and expand your network.
Eliza Shanley, founder and managing partner of Women@Work Network, LLC, has spent more than 10 years counseling and advising professional women seeking new opportunities and career enrichment.Women@Work Networkis a supportive network for mid- to senior-management level women in the greater NYC area. The company also has a full life cycle contingency staffing and recruitment arm, which places candidates at various companies throughout the tri-state area.