You are ever evolving at work. And so is your professional network. The truth is you will start looking for new opportunities at some point or the other. At that stage, it’s your professional network that you will turn to for new opportunities.
It doesn’t matter whether you are in an entry-level job or in senior management – you will turn towards your professional network to find the next opportunity.
However the people you turn to will be different. Depending at which stage of your career you are in, the people who matter most will differ.Depending at which stage of your career you are in, these people in your network will matter most . Click To Tweet
Entry-Level: Family Connections and Alumni Groups
When you’re just starting out, it’s pretty obvious who the most useful people in your network are—mainly because you haven’t actually been in the workforce to build a professional network. So as new grads have found for generations, family connections and alumni groups are still your best bet.
I don’t understand why family connections are underestimated. It is a network – and you need to tap into it. Don’t make it awkward. Your family is there to help you, go ahead and ask.
Alumni groups are great, I am a big fan of these groups. I still take the opportunity to go back to my university and speak to Engineering students. Support them in any way I can and some of them have gone on to grab internships and work experience through networking.
Three to Five Years In: A Professional Recruiter and A Former Boss
Recruiters, used to be just for executive-level people and people in temporary jobs, but the stigma associated with headhunters and their ilk is beginning to dissipate as younger workers begin reaching out for professional help. The reason, is that when you’re at an associate level, you’re really looking for that next step. It’s really a numbers game—all those people are looking to move into that junior-manager role, and fewer factors may set them apart as there are among candidates for senior-level positions.
A former boss is a valuable contact if you are looking to move outside the business. And sometimes it can be helpful to take on a new challenge and come out of your comfort zone. I am a big advocate of not overstaying your welcome.
Whilst if you want to grow in the business you are in, speaking to someone in a senior position will help. Ask them to mentor you, learn about the business and their role. What you need to realise is, when someone mentors you, they want you to succeed. You are their project and they will recommend you or let you know of opportunities that others might not know of yet.
I am mentored and I mentor – however I take it as an opportunity to learn from others. So if my mentor is reading this – I am clean 🙂
Mid-career: Colleagues Who’ve Moved to Competitors
It’s at mid-career that the contacts outside your own company may begin to matter more for you. The people to focus are really going to be your peer group and your previous colleagues who’ve moved on, especially to competitors. The competition is always happy to talk. That’s usually where your experience at that level will be more relevant, and it’s arguably becoming more important than ever to have inside contacts who can speak to it directly.
Even though your skill set may be transferable, people don’t really recruit that way anymore. They want to know what you’ve already done—which means they need someone who can vouch for the concrete results you’ve delivered in the past and how you did it. Which means contacts who were right there with you when that happened.
Senior Level: People You’ve Previously Managed
Once you’re at the upper reaches of the career ladder, it can be tempting to rub elbows mainly just with the other people there. But if it was your peers who helped you most around mid-career, they may not always be your most powerful contacts at senior levels.