Monday, June 23, 2014

7 Networking Secrets Everyone Should Learn In Their 20s

By Bonnie Marcus

Fresh out of college, my first job was doing marketing research for McGraw Hill in New York City. I didn't know many people in the city and, to me, networking was all about finding new friends to hang out with. Networking was purely social. 
What I discovered over the years is that networking is much more than that. It is an essential part of building a successful career, and if done strategically and intentionally, it can be very powerful.
Here are the seven secrets about networking I wish I learned in my 20s:

1. Effective networking involves focus, attention, and strategy.

Many of us network haphazardly. We join some industry groups. We meet coworkers after work for a drink, but we don't have a plan. We might even think the more people we meet, the better. But meeting the right people is most important. The right people are those that can help you reach your career goal. The right people are those people who are willing to speak up for you. You need to focus on people with whom you can build strong mutually beneficial relationships.

2. There is a direct relationship between networking strategically and increased income.

Upwardly Mobile, Inc., with the support of Pepperdine University's Graziadio School of Business Management, conducted research in April 2008 about how professionals use networking. They surveyed more than 600 high-earning "elite" professionals about how they use networking to cultivate richer relationships, gain more access and enjoy more success in their careers and personal lives. Their findings confirm that "networking is a key driver behind higher salaries and career advancement."

3. Keeping in touch with former alums and colleagues is money in the bank.

When I wanted to make a career move after having lost out on a promotion, I tapped into my network and let people know I was looking for a new opportunity. Almost immediately, a former colleague gave me information about an opening in her company. She worked in another business unit there and knew the management team. Not only did she give me the lead, but she pre-sold me to the key stakeholders. I interviewed for the position and landed the job. My income almost doubled.

4. Paying it forward pays off.

One important lesson I've learned is that the more you invest in your network, the more valuable your network is. Taking calls, responding to emails, offering to help people creates a strong bond. People trust that you will be there for them and are often willing to respond in kind. It's important to network proactively so you have these relationships when you need help.