Regular readers know that networking is one of my favorite topics. I especially love when I find expert sources who confirm the advice I’ve been giving my clients! A recent New York Times article by Hannah Seligson highlighted a trend identified with Generation Y job seekers, but I think it is a valuable strategy for everyone to use when networking. What is it? “Peer infiltration” – networking down and across instead of networking “up.” In other words, don’t try to network with the top branches of the tree; if you’re a middle branch, or down near the roots, find others like you and network with them!
How does it work? The article quotes Tamara Erickson, a researcher on generational differences in the workplace and author of Plugged In: The Generation Y Guide to Thriving at Work, as saying that most job seekers born since 1980 prefer to network with their peers instead of targeting high-level professionals.
Lindsey Gerdes, 28, a staff editor at BusinessWeek who writes about Generation Y, says that, particularly in finance, knowing someone your own age can be an important step to getting your foot in the door. “If you are one of these young analysts that lost their job and you don’t know someone in your demographic or from your college that works in your industry, get to know one,” she says. “These young people are the ones with their ears to the ground about hiring needs.”
The article suggests that savvy job seekers take advantage of formal and informal, in-person (“schmoozing”) and online networking opportunities. Networking isn’t rocket science; it makes sense to create a lateral network with friends and extended contacts for information about opportunities.
I think an approach that focuses on peers makes networking much more do-able for anyone who hesitates to “ask for help” and for those who are not comfortable contacting high-level professionals. The fact is, starting where you are is the best networking strategy, as long as where you are includes a tools such as LinkedIn, Facebook and even Twitter, and that you make a point to attend in-person networking events as part of your plans.
The article also reminds us that job seekers (and everyone hoping to have a great network) needs to cultivate relationships beyond basic friendships so that contacts will be able to vouch for them professionally. When networking in social settings (including online), keep your professional goals in mind.
Just as it isn’t a good idea to bad-mouth your boss on your Facebook page, it may not sit well with professional “friends” to learn about unsavory job antics, such as when you called in sick after a long night out or how you manage to stretch your lunch on days you’re bored. Oversharing about your personal relationships and anything else that may be considered “TMI” (too much information) is best kept for close friends.
If you’re hoping for a strong professional network, keep it friendly, but save the nitty-gritty details of your life for friends who aren’t prone to judge you based on your own errors in judgment.
Have you successfully used peer networking? Does it sound more do-able than what you’ve been trying to do? Share your thoughts!
Don’t forget that Keppie Careers can help with every aspect of your job search. Need a resume? Don’t know where to get started? We can help!
photo by Old Shoe Woman