Think of networking like planting and caring for a healthy sustainable garden. It doesn't just all come together overnight and often the fruits of your labors take years to harvest. Building up a network is just like that. It takes years but it does get easier over time. Like any other skill you practice, the more you do it, the easier it gets. But that's only part of it.
It's also a waiting game. It is a waiting game for you and for those in your network. Generally speaking, we all start at the same place but where we end up is a function of how well we've learned to network.
I'm often asked by people just starting out on their careers what they can do to advance faster. I tell them it's all a function of time; that there's nothing they can do to speed it up. They need to be in it for the long-haul. I tell them to bide their time. To go out and to have fun and to build up great memories with their peers. I tell them to invest in their hobbies and to pursue interests outside of work. I tell them to make as many friends as they can. That's the secret to advancing their careers.
As you advance through your career, you will be exposed to more people and more networking opportunities. But more critically, as your title and influence grow within your industry, more and more people will want to know you. Over time, you will become the person that others starting out will need to meet.
The same holds true for your network of friends. Some of the people you started out with will go on to do exceptional things. For me, many of the people I came up with developed truly impressive resumes. Over time, many have turned into world class touring engineers, CEO's, and VP’s at music and technology companies. They’re still the same good people that used to crash on my couch. Only now, we do business together. Had I not known them from when we were younger, I would never even get to cross paths with them now.
The point of networking is that you never know who you're really talking to or what the future holds for anyone. The person who you think might open doors for you may turn out to be a disaster while some random goofball may completely change your life's trajectory. It's all unknown. So hedge your bets and treat everyone the same. Look past titles and circumstances and follow these guidelines.
- Know that you're playing the long game
- Don't put on airs and don't be effected by what you believe others have accomplished.
- Don't be judgmental or rude based on what you believe others have not accomplished.
- Don't diminish your accomplishments and don't take your achievements too seriously. Treat yourself with respect and humility — no matter where you are on your own career trajectory.
- Give more than you take. Be generous. It will be noted and remembered.