How to Network in 2020
For anyone who struggles with building a network
Networking is a skill, but it’s also a numbers game. For every 30 people you meet, 1 of them might be helpful for your career immediately, 5 others might be helpful within the next 5 years. But the rest are just pleasant conversations. So if you want to embark on the journey of networking to further your career, you have to go into it with realistic expectations and willing to put the graft in.
In a covid world, it’s easier than ever to find people online, but harder than ever to forge proper connections with people when you aren’t physically near. So how do you create a network in 2020?
Join targeted groups
The people you want to talk to are likely to be part of certain online groups and networks you can access them through. For example, if you’re a women, hoping to further your career in graphic design, there are lots of facebook groups and instagram communities that exist that serve that exact purpose. That’s where all the other people in your field who are also open to networking are. Those who run the networks are highly likely to be willing to put you in touch with specific people or put a shoutout for you on the social media account too. Just DM the account and ask if they can help — explain your situation briefly and see if they’re free for a call. The people in charge of the accounts will be very well connected so if you can get in with them, that will open a lot of doors for you.
Ask for mentorship / advice
I wrote an article about how to find mentors using your digital detective skills here, that should be useful for finding the people you want to network with and serve as reassurance that they are more likely to give you their time than not!
But if you’re looking to network with people who could be good industry contacts and help you get ahead in your career, this is a very good way to let the right people know who you are and start building those relationships.
Have an angle
If this is the avenue you’d like to take, you need to think a little bit about your personal brand here. It is easier to establish networks quickly if you stand for something, or if you’re vocal about a cause you feel passionately about and other people want to support. Don’t make one up for the sake of it, but if there is something you aren campaigning for or you do feel strongly about, make sure you mention it when someone asks what you do. Introduce it as a side hustle or a passion project — it’s totally acceptable to say ‘I’m a freelance graphic designer and on the side I run an account that campaigns for more women to be on the boards of design agencies.’ Get yourself an epithet for 2020! Your campaign and cause can be the hook for people to ask more about you and engage with you.
Being nice and honest is better than trying to be funny (confidence is a front)
These are all interlinked. There’s a common misconception that the loudest in the room are the best at networking. This is not the case — in fact, often the opposite as the loudest person is often the one who only wants to talk about themselves.
A good networker is someone who listens first and responds with interested questions and allows the conversation to organically develop. If you aren’t incredibly funny, don’t try to be. If you aren’t super knowledgeable about the subject, don’t pretend to be. It’s far better to come across like a nice, calm person who can have a conversation with people and is naturally curious, than it is to be the crowd-pleaser know-it-all who dominates the situation.
If you aren’t sure how to make yourself as appealing to a new contact as possible, you can read more about what to do and say here.
This article has actually been turned into a workshop by the author Sam and her business partner Mae. Watch or listen to them chat through the reasons for creating the article and how they’ve actioned these points in their own lives here.
This workshop is the first in a series titled ‘The Career & Self-Development Series by ERIC’. Click here to see the rest of the workshops — all are action-focused and designed to not only help you know what you want from a career but also find companies that are hiring, get in touch with them, interview with them and find people who can help you get the future you want.
Mae & Sam run ERIC together, a community that empowers Gen Z creatives through career & self-development content.
ERIC are launching a career and self-development app. Sign up to be an app tester at meet-eric.co/app.