Congratulations on getting hired at your dream company! All your hard work and preparation has paid off. Give yourself a pat on the back. Now that you’re in, the real work begins. In addition to showcasing the immense talent you have in your field, it’s important you make new friends and create lasting relationships that will allow you to build on your career aspirations. It’s time to start building your networking opportunities. Learning the secrets to networking will help you take control of your career.
What is networking?
Advancement in any career involves networking. Networking is simply making new friends and building relationships. Having the ability to successfully network could mean the difference in getting that coveted promotion or getting your name out amongst leadership in your new company. Those relationships can then be leveraged to exchange information as well as professional experience when it comes to career advancement. If you know anything about branding, networking is about building your personal brand. Your personal brand is what others think of whenever your name is mentioned.
You may be thinking, “But I just got here,” and that’s okay. Networking doesn’t have to be stressful. It’s about getting to know the people in your new setting. As you become more familiar with your coworkers, think about ways you can get to know each other better. The best part about networking is that it can be accomplished with just about everyone. Co-workers, business associates, and family members—just to name a few. If there is an opportunity to talk, there is an opportunity for networking.
How does networking work?
It’s important to have your interests, needs, and career goals in mind when you begin networking. While you may not be looking to make a career change so soon into your new position, networking is a way to build connections and create a personal 411 of contacts. A support system in any career is important to develop confidence in your work and life experiences. You never know when your previous experience will turn into a future job prospect. Progressive offers Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) and volunteer opportunities as ways to grow one’s networking contacts.
ERGs are a great place to begin building relationships at work. ERGs are groups of employees who join in their workplace based on shared interests and commonalities. These groups can have different names depending on the company, but the premise is still the same. Progressive offers nine ERGs and employees are encouraged to join as many as they’d like regardless of commonalities. ERGs often include employees in various work groups, so it’s a great place to reach out to coworkers outside of your own work group. Networking through volunteering is also a great option as it can be done both inside and outside of work obligations and allows you to expand your connections.
Things to keep in mind when networking
First impressions matter when networking. Even if you’re nervous, do your best to exude confidence in yourself. Make sure to perfect your elevator pitch. Try not to seem overly confident, as that may come off as arrogant. It’s important that you appear knowledgeable, not a know it all.
As you continue to venture out in your networking pursuits, make sure you’re comfortable in making conversation. Poorly executed networking attempts can be harmful to your career, so get comfortable talking about not only yourself and your accomplishments, but small talk as well. When the conversation stalls, have an exit strategy in mind to avoid awkward silences. Most importantly, when you make a connection, create a plan to follow up or keep in touch. Remember, it’s not just what you know, and whom you know, it’s what you do with that knowledge.