You probably don’t need LinkedIn to tell you this, but an overwhelming number of people find jobs through networking. And it’s not who you know. It’s who knows you.
The remarkable thing about networking, other than its utter dominance among job search/job acquisition methods, is the surprising way in which it works to the advantage of the person who has mastered it. If you’re not a pro at networking, you might assume that you can look to your most trusted colleagues or your closest friends for the best leads. Or that you have to seek out someone of really high rank in a company to have any expectation that the connection will lead somewhere meaningful.
All of this turns out not to be true. Or at least it’s not necessarily true. Sometimes connections that lead to very fruitful and lucrative steps up in the job world come from people with whom we have almost tangential relationships. Or, in some cases, from those who are nearly strangers to us.
If, as an aspiring career-minded woman, you find that you aren’t advancing through the ranks at the speed you would like (or deserve), then try rethinking your networking strategy.
Consider what Chana R. Schoenberger, writing for BBC Capital, has to say on this subject. She contends that men and women tend to network differently, but that many female executives have figured this out and begun to act more like men traditionally have in this regard. Men, generally speaking, feel more comfortable casting a very wide net among all of their associates. Women, on the other hand, are more likely to build a solid support structure around themselves consisting of those whom they trust the most and know the best, including old friends and colleagues. This might be great for emotional support and encouragement as well as honest feedback. But when on a quest for a dramatic career change, that much sought-after lead is most likely not going to be found within a small circle of friends. You have to get beyond that, even if it means taking a risk and letting your guard down.
In this case, get out of your comfort zone and make a point of meeting new people. Go to networking events with the mindset that others there have the same goal you do—namely, to make connections. Let go of the notion that your network should consist only of people you’re really close with or only of those people with whom you developed a relationship “naturally.” An event specifically designed to hurl people together so that they can improve each other’s careers may seem like an artificial way to meet someone new. But it works.
Most importantly, remember that in many sectors dramatic upheaval and sudden change are the norms. Even if you aren’t actively looking for a job right now, it never hurts to network. Years from now you may need that connection you made today. And when the time comes for you to call it in and leverage it, don’t be afraid to ask.