Relationships

A 5-Minute Habit That Changes Your Career

A 5-Minute Habit That Changes Your Career

I read something about networking that hit me hard…

Here’s the thing, I’m 26 and still learning about how to navigate my career. Lately, I’ve been making more of an effort to connect with people in my industry — both chatting with peers at events and introducing myself to leaders I look up to. I’ve always known the importance of sending a thank-you letter after interviews, but I typically didn’t do anything else until I read this:

“I’m just stunned at how few people know how to follow up on a connection,” Tina Brown, former editor of Vanity Fair and The New Yorker, recently told The Cut. “Make sure that you stay in touch with the people you’re interested in, make sure they’re aware of you, that you stay on their radar… It’s remarkable how much these people appreciate hearing from you when you don’t want something from them.”

It’s so true, right? Sending emails just for the sake of staying in touch changes everything. It makes me think back to how I met some of my greatest friends and mentors. Even the simplest notes — the ones that latch on to something the person and I had discussed, like a restaurant recommendation for an upcoming trip or a funny link about a Ethan Hawke movie — can solidify a connection. It reminds me of this comment from Cup of Jo reader Brooke: “Everyone you work with is a human being behind their title, and when I finally applied this to networking, it made small talk much easier. People love to find common ground in pop culture, relationships and humor. It will stand out in a sea of corporate speak.”

Networking might be one of the cringiest words out there, but the more I think of it as just building relationships, it’s so much easier.

Thoughts? What about you? What career advice have you taken to heart?

P.S. 12 great reader comments on career, and how to navigate a career change.

(Photo of Barbara Walterz/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank.)

  1. Jasna says...

    Thank you for all the tips, Dee! Exactly what I needed.

  2. Carol says...

    Don’t expect much of this in the San Francisco Bay area. They don’t get it (unless they’re from NY, Midwest, etc.). Folks aren’t curious about other people, and they don’t get that networking is linking with other people’s networks. They are very literal here: Do you have some direct value for me right now? No? OK, moving on….

    • I have lived there for many years and this is not my experience at all. The vast majority are many wonderful people. Don’t give up.

  3. Robyn says...

    Several people have suggested that the age gap makes it hard to network/ build relations. I am now 59, when I was a young teacher the older, more experienced teachers were invaluable to me. Use your older contacts/ coworkers as a learning tool. Working with older and younger people has been a wonderful experience. I have learned so much form both. I’m a terrible networker, but seeing everyone I come into contact with as someone who can teach me something has helped me build and maintain relationships no matter the age.

  4. Samantha says...

    I can’t stand the word networking, it sets my social anxiety on fire and makes me wanna run away from any event that has anything to do with it.
    I recently went to a charitable event and since it wasn’t work related it was much easier for me to socialize and “network” without using the cringe-y word. I did send “thank you” messages to the people I met, so hopefully we’ll stay in touch and work on charitable projects together (which sounds way better to me than any work relationship relating to my actual career anyway).

  5. Jo says...

    Fellow 26-year-old working on this exact notion! I have several people I’m looking up to right now and I always feel so awkward trying to “network” with them. Sometimes, especially, I feel like an age gap is hard to maneuver but framing it as building a relationship seems less daunting.

  6. Alexandra says...

    Ughh, networking is my worst nightmare as an introvert. Meeting new people makes me SO anxious, and I’m in a position now where I need to put myself out there more to both make and solidify connections with others in my industry. This change in perspective makes it sound so much less stressful!! Thank you!

  7. Cheryl says...

    Any recommendations to break through age gaps? Its hard to even relate in the personal stuff because you are at different ages of life! I’m 33 and sometimes trying to speak with a person who could be my parents or even grandparents is extremely hard. Would love suggestions!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      great question, cheryl! i find that certain questions tend to be more universal: have you seen any good movies lately? are you planning any summer trips? what are you up to this weekend? how do you know the host?

      also, when in doubt, i’ll sometimes just ask: so, how was your day? (people are always interested in things that just happened, and then often little details will spin into big conversations)

      xoxoxo

    • Jill says...

      I have the same issue, but opposite. I am 48 years old and a toddler teacher working with Autistic children. Most of my co-teachers are in their 20s and 30s. I have a Masters, I could move onto a director position but I just love what I do and have been doing it since I was 24. Its important to bond with co-teachers bc you rely on them and work closely together. Sometimes I worry that the younger women I work with won’t see me as a colleague and sometimes I do feel left out. I try to ask questions about what it’s like being a millenial without making my self feel like an “old lady”. I try to ask them their opinion about issues relating to my 13 year old daughter, as they are closer in age to her. I feel like I am pretty “ageless” I am young at heart but I wonder how they see me. How do you see these older co workers, is it respect or do you assume they are just to old to understand anything? Just wondering!!!

    • Sarah says...

      I also know what’s going on in my parents lives so can riff on with older people about my parents similar issues/concerns/worries/delights. But I do find retirees at church tricky, so Jo’s advice is great.

  8. Caitlyn says...

    Wow, thank you for such a great post, Stella! Im also 26 and have been “underemployed” for the last year. It’s incredibly disheartening. I’m trying to make a career change, but it’s proven to be very difficult. I know without a doubt that I need to up my networking game.

    At the very least, I’d love to connect with you, Stella, or at least read more posts about how to break into a new industry. I really want to get into copywriting/professional writing, but every entry level position seems to demand 3 years experience! What is that about?!

    Best of luck to you!

    • Kathy says...

      Hey, Caitlyn–I left teaching in June 2016 after 20+ years, and am fighting a similar career-change battle. It seems like I’m perceived as being too old/too expensive/too something (!) for even entry level positions in other fields. To be a good teacher you have to be really good and really flexible and really quick at learning a lot of different things ALL AT THE SAME TIME, but hiring managers can’t seem to imagine how I’d be a good fit with their companies. There’s no way to even pitch myself since so much of the screening is done via web-based algorithms. I rarely even get offered an interview. I’ve tweaked my resume with little success. I am considering lying about everything–age, experience, background–to make it seem like I’m fresh out of school with NO experience, just to see what happens…!

      I wish you good luck–you have your youth on your side, so don’t get too discouraged. I started teaching in my early 30s, so you have time! :)

  9. Kris says...

    I really love this – “Everyone you work with is a human being behind their title…” I’m not sure if I am an extroverted introvert. I am borderline anxious around people I don’t know, but if I know you, you can’t shut me up and I can be a little weird/wild/a riot. Anyway, the term “networking” terrifies me. I would likely sit at my table or on the outskirts during a “networking” event, but this quote may make the next event a little more bearable. Like, heyyy boss person, do you knit? Haha. Maybe? We’ll see.

  10. This is all so true. I never realised that I was a born networker until a couple of friends commentated on how much I do it. Until they said something I’d never thought of what I do as “networking.” I just love to talk to people in my field, share ideas and tell those I admire why I feel that way. I’ve never been shy about doing so because I know how great it feels to get a genuine compliment and so have always liked giving them as much as possible. If you’re passionate and sincere in what you do, chances are people around you will appreciate it and want to be part of your “network” which eventually just becomes your mentors, colleagues and friends.

  11. AN says...

    I was at a conference last week and happened to be introduced to the director of Recruiting at maybe the most admired brand in our entire industry. I sent her an email today for no reason other than to tell her how lovely it was to meet her (we’d probably never move to where this company is). She was so gracious and invited us for a tour if we’re ever in their area, and said “stay in touch”. You bet I will! This generosity of spirit and hospitality is sorely needed these days, and I’m so glad I took the three minutes it took to write that email.

    • Stella Blackmon says...

      Amazing, An!

  12. Kristal says...

    I enjoyed this article because networking may seem to be overwhelming in most instances, but once work is involved it is compulsory. I have found that once I am at a work function, like a conference or convention, I establish authentic connections with those met. However, I agree that you must interact frequently because you are given the opportunity to display and strengthen the genuine interest in your colleagues’ lives, which amplifies the connection made. I work in law enforcement and career advise that I have taken to heart is to never compromise my values and integrity.

  13. Daynna says...

    I wish we could like comments here like you can on FB or Insta. So often, while perusing the comment section, I see such great advice or heartwarming observations, etc and i don’t have the energy to go through the comment process but wish I could give a figurative thumbs up to these comments to let the author know they’re appreciated.

    • YES I strongly agree with this : )

    • I’ve thought that so many times! COJ team, you should use Disqus for your comments section!!

    • Aideen O'Byrne says...

      Thumbs up to this!

    • Chiara says...

      I really like the layout and simplicity of the way the comments are structured now, though I would maybe appreciate a ‘like’-button.

    • Sarah says...

      I must disagree, and also have to say that this comment completely contradicts the point of this post! NO “like button.” Communicate!!! Reach out and say thank you!!! Who cares about a like. Be REAL.

      This is a major problem with this generation and beyond. No one knows how to communicate.

      Sending an email to keep in touch is a ground-breaking, hot tip?? Sorry millennials, that’s just normal to me. In fact, I’d up the ante and PICK UP THE PHONE and have a real chat.

      Signed, your 41 year old friend

  14. J. says...

    Love this, Stella! A great piece of advice I received in regards to clients, people in the same industry, and even coworkers, is “you as you are right this second might be the only ‘you’ someone remembers.”

    I don’t mean it to induce pressure to be perfect, but rather– particularly for new grads who are new to the working world–to remind people that one seemingly meaningless interaction can make a huge impression on people in a good way (other life tip: as long as it’s genuine, say thank you 10X as much as you think you need to to convey your gratitude) and can also leave something to be desired in a negative way. I don’t hold grudges, but will admit I’m always a tiiiiny bit slower to respond to an email from someone who needs something from me but previously sent me a needlessly rude, demanding email in my early days at the company (I do work at a massive company, so not sure how this applies elsewhere!), whereas I will always go out of my way to do a favor for someone I came across. I hope this doesn’t come across as petty… but does anyone feel this way?!

  15. Love this post and advice, Stella! When at a “networking event,” I scan the room for one person I’d like to connect with in conversation. That’s it. Beautiful things (in business and otherwise) have unfolded from there – from a pure, human-to-human place without agendas or expectations.

  16. Rachel says...

    I think the problem with “networking” is it has come to mean something rather inauthentic–something you should do JUST for your career, not because you like people. I got over the cringe-worthiness of that word once I gave myself permission not to network with people I don’t like; it doesn’t work very well anyway (you can tell when someone is faking).

    Also two tips for keeping the connection: 1) after you meet someone, immediately add them on the appropriate social media platform (Usually LinkedIn); it gets weirder the longer you wait so within the week is best, and 2) Set up a Google alert for their name. You’ll get emails when they get a new job, an article published, etc. Then you can send a congratulatory email–even if you haven’t reconnected for a long time!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      what great tips, rachel!

  17. Steph says...

    “Everyone you work with is a human being behind their title”

    THIS. I used to be so intimidated by titles, experience, company prestige, etc. It was crippling at times, especially when meeting with potential mentors. Realizing that everyone is human – snoozes their alarm in the morning, forgets their Netflix password, has bad days – made everything so much easier for me.

  18. Gem says...

    Love this and totally agree. Following up with a note – and a link to something you talked about – is SO worthwhile. It cements the connection. (Unless you walked away from the meeting thinking, wow, that person is an utter fool, in which case, don’t bother.)
    Gem xx

  19. Emily says...

    This is good advice and I’ve heard this many times before; however, I find the mechanics difficult! Unless you have a more casual relationship or see the connection enough to send these small updates, it ends up being a formal ‘here’s what I’m doing now’ every so often, which can feel kind of funny unless you’re really doing something new and impressive that they might want to know about. I’d love a post on HOW to write something like this (also, how to form a more friendly/social relationship with your boss, even if they’re kind of prickly!).

    • Anne says...

      A former (and highly-ranked) boss once told me exactly how to stay in touch with him. If I come across an article that I think he would appreciate, I should send it to him along with a short hello and a relevant 1-2 sentence quote from the article. That way, if he doesn’t have time to read the article, he can just respond to the quote.

      I lost touch with this particular boss – never followed his advice haha – but it seems like a good technique to try!

  20. Kimmie Rodriguez says...

    I think the word “networking” is what freaks me out the most. It helps (for me) to frame it as “a chance to meet new people, maybe friends, maybe an acquaintance, maybe just a quick chat”. And in a way, it takes the pressure off and helps me frame the conversations as a genuine interaction, not just “hey, can you get me a job” or “how can I use you to help advance my career”, which is always such a turn off and so no the point anyways.

  21. Elizabeth says...

    YES! I recently did a total 180 career switch in my early 30s. Once I switched my mindset from “networking” to “friendworking” the switch all fell into place. Seriously!

  22. I love this! I wrote an entire book on this exact concept of sending one email a day just to stay in touch. It’s called Reach Out and it came out last year with McGraw-Hill :)

    • Carolyn says...

      Read about Reach Out in laura Vanderkam’s book and loved it! Seems so doable and not phony.

    • That makes me so happy to hear Carolyn!! I love Laura’s books and she has been a great supporter of my work!

  23. Patrice says...

    This is a great topic but I have a slightly different take. I work in a male dominated field and I’m always reluctant to bring up personal topics because I think it makes me look less serious and less competent. If I’m at a work event it makes sense to me to talk about business, and not necessarily in a transactional way. If the other person (and it’s almost always a dude) brings up a non-work topic I am happy to engage but I never take the first step and I’m careful about what I share. Does anyone else feel this way?

    • Stella Blackmon says...

      This is such a great point, Patrice!

    • Kelly Hartman says...

      I also work in a male dominated field and used to feel this way. As I’ve gotten more seniority I have really really opened up on this front. I have kids and used to be petrified to mention that, but now I talk about them all the time! I feel like it’s my duty to normalize it for people under me.

      And all the dudes I work with talk about their personal stuff All. The. Time. Granted, for many, it’s sports, or in some cases, their kids sports…and yes, some of them clearly feel that sports rises to the level of an Important Topic whereas if I talked about my spa day or my yoga class or whatever, that would be frivolous. But in my late 40’s, I really don’t care what they think!

    • Carrie says...

      I also work in a male dominated field, one of only two women at my place of work! My big thing is just being very careful to avoid inappropriate topics when they come up. Guys love to brag about being good at sex, their balls, girth, etc (Yes, I work in construction!) I’ve been here for 5 years so I’m just a bump in the landscape now. In situations like this I quietly bow out and then usually laugh privately at my desk, because sometimes the guys can be super funny.

    • Flannery says...

      At the same time, people enjoy talking about themselves and I have felt my (restrained) openness has allowed people to learn about each other. It’s a strength since it helps build a community feel.

    • Anne says...

      I feel this way too. I work in engineering, and I’ve recently noticed that my male peers share a lot less about themselves than I do. In particular, I talk about my husband a lot – he’s an active guy who is always trying new things, so he’s easy to talk about – but they almost never talk about their girlfriends/wives. I try to ask, like, “Oh, how did Blair’s marathon go?” but unless they’re prompted, they will rarely discuss their relationships.

      Lately I’ve been wondering if this makes me look immature, like I can’t stop talking about my husband or something. I get along great with the women in my field, and I get the sense they’re always happy to talk about their personal lives (in a good, chatty way, not gossipy). I get the sense that my husband and his male coworkers talk about their families with each other. I can’t figure out what’s going on!

    • Kacie says...

      Yes!!! I also have learned over time to stay in the business zone in order to avoid the problem of uninvited advances as soon as conversation turns from business to personal.

  24. Rachel says...

    As someone who works in HR I’m not too prone to help when people send me LinkedIn messages asking for me to review their resume to see if they are a good fit for any job we have open. It feels like spam and it’s lazy. Approach networking online like you would a conversation with a stranger – “Hi I see we have XYZ in common…” Start up a conversation – don’t just make an ask!

    • echoing this, SO VERY LOUD. i also receive requests to edit resumes for people (friends, family, acquaintances, ppl i went to middle school with in africa, sometimes acquaintances of acquaintances!) knock that off.

  25. Kelly says...

    i was recently giving advice to a newly single friend on dating after divorce: you’re not looking to meet The One with every interaction, you’re just trying to make a friend. Maybe there’s a possibility of romance, maybe they have a group of friends that would be fun to know, maybe they are just a nice person to chat with over coffee…same is true for networking!

  26. I totally agree! Be nice and appreciative to everyone without expecting something in return, not just to “useful” people. And I believe it is a good habit to have in life too, beyond networking.
    I’m not great at starting a conversation so I often talk about travelling, making a connection between the person’s country and my own travel experiences…
    Thanks for this article!

  27. Brooke says...

    Thank you for featuring my comment! It made my day. I still stand by this advice. :) As I get older, I find myself applying it to interactions I have with anyone (beyond just work events–on the el, at the store, at a volunteer event, in cycling class…)– you never know what stranger could become important to your life in a way you never imagined.

  28. Beth says...

    I’m a teacher and my principal once sent my mother a handwritten note telling her what a great job I was doing. Even though it’s been five years since she received the note in the mail and I haven’t lived at home in fifteen years, it’s still up on my parents’ fridge.

    • Sonia says...

      Wow! That’s incredibly special. Thanks for sharing :)

  29. The 2 best pieces of career advice I’ve received are this:

    – If someone takes the time to type up directions or a detailed schedule or memo…. make sure you read thoroughly before asking a question! Or even better, ask them a direct question from that memo to show that you have read and paid attention to something they spent a lot of time creating to provide clarity!

    – before you address a problem to your boss, already have a solution in hand for that problem!

    These 2 pieces of advice have served me very well!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      YES to the second!!!!!

    • Lisa says...

      Those are both excellent! I’m someone who is all about giving detailed notes because I want to reduce the amount of back and forth. I’m on maternity leave at the moment and wrote very detailed handover notes so that 1. My cover had something comprehensive and 2. I wouldn’t be bothered while on leave. The day after I went on leave I got a call asking me a bunch of questions which were covered by my handover. I was incredibly annoyed. It’s just laziness

  30. Ramona says...

    Another thing I think is important is ‘Don’t burn your bridges.’ You never know what the future will bring and it would be great to be able to re-connect with employers/colleagues from your past.

    • patricia blaettler says...

      Yes. Be nice on the way up, cuz you never know who you’ll meet on the way down…

  31. Vivian Lyttle says...

    Thanks so much for sharing this!

    When I worked in the corporate world, I thought I hated networking because I’m an introvert. It always felt like a scary chore and I would quite literally hide in the bathroom to take breaks at networking events!

    Then I opened my own wedding planning business, started meeting people in the industry and loved it! I realized that when you’re doing something you love, you want to share that love with like-minded people.

    I’m happy to report that I’m no longer hiding in bathroom stalls :)

    • Tory says...

      Its nice to know there are other people out there who hide in bathroom stalls during networking events ;) And…that it can get better!

  32. Emily says...

    From my experience, networking is simply building relationships with people. If it is viewed as a transaction (“what can person X give me?”), then it will not turn into a relationship and one may end up looking only self-interested. I recommend to treat it as a long-term friendship, with the mindset that you are expanding your personal friendships beyond your comfortable base, to people you admire or respect professionally. You can be simply curious and interested in the other person, and not ask for anything until it is offered (or you feel completely comfortable asking for a favor/introduction/recommendation/etc.).
    It is amazing how doors have been opened for me or opportunities were created just by maintaining an interest in the person, rather than their job, position, connections. Obviously over time conversations will play out where you can speak about yourself, and they will get to know you and your goals, and then can connect the dots as a friend.

    • Shannon says...

      I so agree with this. Transactional emails sometimes feel really disingenuous and I think it’s smart to be discriminating in how and who you connect with. In San Francisco, I made the mistake of networking with an incredibly lucrative, but corrupt network and it created a terrible ripple effect. Long-time, honest, and trusted friends make the best assets. But I so appreciate the article, Stella! Great thoughts here.

  33. Another much needed and relatable piece, thank you Stella!

  34. Lisa says...

    I have been a pretty shy person my whole life and am overly honest, so the whole idea of networking actually makes me feel physically ill. Instead, I think I hve actually networked but never thought of it that way – just gotten to know people and been friendly. I keep in touch with people I’ve worked with / met at industry events just because I like them. Occasionally I reach out to do benchmarking (very common in my area of work) and I helped a former colleague find a new job when she moved country by referring her to another former colleague (who is an absolute sweetheart and now sends me pictures of the two of them hanging out together every now and then!). As the commenter said – at the end you’re dealing with other humans and as woman in a male dominated industry these friends I’ve made are great support system.

  35. Kate says...

    Oh my gosh, I read this and instantly remembered the card I got at a party on Saturday but hadn’t done anything about. E-mail sent in 2 minutes! Great tip!

    xoxo

  36. Wendy says...

    Gahh, this post couldn’t have come at a better time.

    I’m about to move to a new city (literally getting in my truck and heading out tomorrow!) and transition into an entirely new career path. Even though I’m a natural extrovert and not known for being shy, the thought of networking and trying to find mentors in a completely new industry (that I am still learning about/still don’t quite understand tech lingo), feels incredibly intimidating and daunting.

    Does anyone have any great tips on how to break into a new career networking scene without sounding (or looking) like a complete doofus?!

    Thank you all in advance! xo

    • Kelly says...

      there’s no better time to ask the intro level questions than when you’re just getting started…and most people will welcome the opportunity to show off what they know!

      i learned this the hard way by trying to fake it after a big career change so i wouldn’t ‘look stupid’. flash forward a year and I still had questions but by then i felt like i really couldn’t ask because i was supposed to know! i wish i had interrogated everyone who was the least bit responsive right at the start when everyone knew i was a newbie.

      good luck!

    • Dana says...

      I agree with Kelly’s advice! Ask lots of clarifying questions while its still “acceptable” for you to do so. Don’t be afraid to say – I’m really excited to transition to this new field. What do you wish you knew when you were just starting out?

      I’m super introverted, but I’ve realized that almost everyone likes it when someone takes a genuine interest in them, and almost everyone likes talking about themselves/their work. Don’t feel intimidated about admitting your lack of knowledge, because that may end up working in your favor in a huge way!

    • Nectar says...

      I have a similar experience to you. I went to any event that involved any topics of interest, and when networking I just out right said I’m new to UX and the city too. Any advice on how to navigate both? That way they can lean either on work-related topics, or non-related topics such as seeing where you’re from/why you moved, etc. I feel that people usually wants to hear a story when networking, if you’re all advertisers, what will make you stand out.

      Also advice that someone told me when networking, try to talk to at least 5 people, and have a goal to get at least 2 contacts.

    • Wendy says...

      Kelly, Dana, and Nectar, thank you all so much for your thoughtful advice!

      I just copy/saved all of these so I can re-read them every now and again right before I go to a networking event.

      And Nectar, I am actually diving into the field of UX Design myself! It’s so comforting to know you had a similar experience. I will definitely have to ask strangers (aka possible new friends?) for lots of advice on how to navigate both Austin and UX all at once; hopefully over tacos :)

      I’m always to grateful for the helpful community on COJ!

    • Stacey Edwards says...

      Hi Wendy,
      I’ve been working on my networking skills to step outside my comfort zone and to meet new people. I’ve met some great folks and resources, once you get to Austin let me know as I live here too. Happy to share with you as you navigate a new city and career change! If you want to send me a note via LinkedIn, it may be the best way to connect.
      Safe travels,
      Stacey Edwards, Austin TX

  37. Stephanie says...

    I can’t speak to networking, but I have to drop in and say that Ethan Hawke tweet image made me LAUGH OUT LOUD. Amazing.

  38. Kylie says...

    Depending on your market or field, Facebook can be a gold mine of networking. I would not have a Facebook page if I wasn’t in sales, but it’s basically my LinkedIn page now! I friend everyone I’ve actually met, and in the nature of my industry (real estate in North Texas) everyone friends back. It’s been such a great way to find out things about people I admire and those I need to connect with. Again, this is entirely dependent on so many factors, but I use Facebook for business (which is great when companies are looking ME up and I’m super classy/professional) and Instagram for private/close peeps. Makes all the difference in my job!

  39. Sally says...

    BY FAR the best work-place advice I was given was by an older colleague, when I was in my first “grown up job”, fresh out of university.
    We’d always got on well, and I confided in her one day that I was worrying about work a lot when OUT of work. The type of “did I do that right? did I say the right thing in that meeting?” type worries.

    She gave me some on-the-spot practical advice that I’ve forgotten now, but the most important thing she said, that I’ve carried with me for 15 years was, “You know… You’re not paid enough to worry about work when OUT of work. Leave it to the people who are paid a lot more than you.”

    That struck a chord with me of “THAT’S SO RIGHT.” And it’s advice I still follow today, and pass on to younger colleagues who now turn to ME for advice.

    Granted, it’s not STRICTLY true… But it gave me the much-needed permission I was seeking, to let some it go.

    • Sam says...

      Thank you for this! I’m struggling to find work-life balance right now and have been working well into the early morning after my kids go to bed (out of guilt? obligation? I’m not sure). I needed to hear this!

    • rlg says...

      A former boss gently responded to my similar concerns with, “Usually, no one is thinking about you (what you said, did, etc.) as much as you are.” That one statement was so freeing. It is amazing what you can accomplish when you are not stuck in a self-conscious spin cycle!

  40. Hope says...

    This is so true. I have moved a lot and had a few kids and suddenly…oops. I need recommendations and references and in the haze of everything that is life, this type of effort just fell off my plate. I feel a little stuck about it. I have reached out to a few of my old contacts and former bosses, but some, well one in particular, we had a tenuous friendship. She was more of a mean girl boss and I always felt uneasy around her. There were times we had fun but I just don’t know how to reconnect with her. Add a few years to that and I guess I need to let this go, except she really could be a good reference. And would undoubtedly be asked about me even if I don’t list her as a reference. I’m hope to stay in the same company.

    Any tips? I’ve been scouring ask a manager but I still feel awkward about it.

    • Dee says...

      What have you got to lose? Also we’re there other lateral managers you worked with who could be understanding and give a reference instead?

    • Hope says...

      There are other managers that I have good references from that were also her managers, let’s say. So someone hiring me would be at her level, and might just go right to her for feedback. It’s very casual and may have already happened.

      The real issue that makes this feel awkward is at one point, I locked my social media down and only kept close family and friends. So I deleted her from my social media. I know it was a nuclear kind of thing to do, but I had lost someone close and was upset and grief stricken and feeling kind of alone at the time. I feel very weird about reaching out after that.

      I know, I know. I’m side eyeing myself and feel very stupid for having done that.

    • Dee says...

      You shouldn’t. I think the issue might be in your head :-) I’ve got an ex boss of this sort and I always give her boss as my reference. I don’t know if someone looked to find the person I reported to, but it has never held me back. It’s everyones right to manage their social media lists and deleting a professional contact is not particularly nuclear to my mind. I really wouldn’t worry.

    • diane says...

      Agree with asking lateral managers and would suggest even other sources. Just to give you an idea when I worked in public relations all my references were reporters I worked with as opposed to people in my management chain. Also, I know it’s tough not to worry but people generally don’t leave a job unless they are unhappy, so I would certainly understand if someone told me as a hiring manager why they did not want to give a previous manager as a reference. (Especially if you left on your own terms.)

    • Hope says...

      Thanks for the advice, Internet friends. I decided not to reach out. I was at one point her assistant, then she was promoted, I took her position. At that point she was not a direct boss but still involved in my work. So we had the same bosses. Every other reference I have is really good. I know I just need to let it lie and a lot of this is probably in my head. Can you tell I chronically overthink? 😀

  41. Dee says...

    Be ready to pitch yourself. I got a phone call last year from a consultant I met at an event. For some reason I was really switched on that day and pitched myself, pointing out what I specialise in, what I love about it and where I hope to go. He remembered me and called me a year later and I currently have the most exciting, best paid job of my career. Also, pay it forward. I now coach any young ambitious person who might be seeking direction. Also, know what you’re worth at all times and benchmark with your peers, and even if you’re really pushed never, ever reveal your current salary. I love the advice of Liz Ryan on LinkedIn -she covers every possible scenario in the job process whether you’re just after joining a firm or thinking of leaving. She gives great tips and it’s free! Also, never be modest when it comes to achievements. Men aren’t – notice that they tend to never play down where they’ve been or what they’ve done. Don’t be fooled that a stranger will appreciate your modesty or humility. You are your own agent.

    • gfy says...

      This might be a naive question but why is it important to keep private about salary? Would any negative discrepancies be best revealed so that they can be corrected and as well, being more highly paid would make you look very good at your job? What is the correct perspective? Thanks!

    • Dee says...

      Companies often push you to reveal what you earned at your last job so they can just add on 10% and pat themselves on the back that you’ll take it. If so, you just cheated yourself out of potentially a lot of extra money. I usually say ‘sorry, that’s private and I don’t share it. However what I’m looking for is….’ or ‘you know best what your budget range is for this role, and what I’m looking for is a fair offer that reflects my years of experience’. You should benchmark with peers to know how much you should ask for or look at similar job openings where a range is disclosed. Also, if you think an initial offer is low, be prepared to be patient and never just accept. Take 24hrs to think about it. Maybe you want to ask for extra days off or other perks like a work from home day if a dollar figure seems low but they can’t go any higher and you want the job. Again Liz Ryan on LinkedIn is amazing on this topic and I recommend following her and reading all her advice.

    • Jasna says...

      Thank you for all the tips, Dee! Exactly what I needed.

  42. Jessica says...

    Thank-you for posting this. I’m 26 too and am learning how to be more comfortable with networking. I have been reaching out to people regarding a practicum for my master’s program and have been trying to practice this skill so this article was helpful and timely. I used to be so nervous about networking but it is amazing how willing people are to help individuals break into a field. I am looking forward to one day returning the favor.

  43. Samantha says...

    As an introvert I used to absolutely hate networking. I thought network meant skipping across the room and making it rain business cards. I much prefer awkwardly hanging out by the buffet table. But after a few pleasant experiences at networking events, I realized that networking didn’t have to be working the entire room. Since then, I’ve approached one -at most two- individual per networking event. Just giving everyone a business card won’t make a mark, but being more selective and having a longer conversation ensures you make an actual connection and that the person will remember you. And if you’re lucky, that person will also want to have that conversation within easy reach of the buffet table.

    • Meg says...

      “skipping across the room and making it rain business cards”
      hahahahaa

    • Amy says...

      This is great advice, Samantha!

    • Nina says...

      haha. I’m an introvert but usually great at networking and such (as long as it hasn’t been DAYS of meeting people and I can take breaks). But I still remember during college – rush for sororities. We did like this round robin where we went to EVERY sorority and by like the 3rd day I was exhausted. I went into one room with a sorority I had no interest in being part of – headed to the back and sat on a couch. with all the hungover sisters. We basically grunted at each other and enjoying making sarcastic comments about everyone else. They all just laughed. And then they invited me back. That freaked me out – I was like omg don’t be cool this time.

  44. Liz says...

    Introvert speaking: I completely agree and understand the importance of this, but how do you do that when you don’t feel like you have anything interesting to share? I always feel like I’m being so obviously networking when I randomly reach out like that. Any tips/advise appreciated! (please and thank you! I’m the worst networker ever haha)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      good question! for me, if we’ve met at an event or party, i try to remember something we talked about (for example, a trip or movie or their kids, etc.) and say it was nice to meet them and chat about X. if i haven’t met them before, but want to reach out, i’ll often just send a note saying i really enjoyed their work on such-and-such and wanted to let them know. i figure everyone appreciates a genuine compliment!

    • Hope says...

      My husband keeps a notebook of anecdotes and names. He actually might use his phone app.

    • Samantha says...

      A former ambassador once showed me how he kept a contact card for everyone he ever met (including myself!) in Outlook. After each networking event he would go home, open Outlook, and add a few bullet points in the “Notes” section of the contact card of each person he had spoken to that night. Some notes were work-related, but most of them were about people’s families, pets, vacations, music tastes, etc.

      Another thing I’ve started doing is paying really close attention when someone mentions a date that is important to them (vacations, birthdays, interviews, their friends’ weddings, etc.) and putting little reminders in my calendar to wish them luck or ask them how it went. We’re all so busy with our own lives it’s hard to remember what’s going on in everyone else’s, but isn’t it so nice when someone asks you about something you didn’t think anyone would remember? :)

    • Kate says...

      @Samantha, that’s such a good tip from that ambassador! It reminds me of Michael Scott and his rolodex. “Green means go. So I know to go ahead and shut about it” :)

    • Amy says...

      I try to go into events with the mindset that I want to learn as much as I can about a few people. That takes the pressure off of me trying to sound or be fabulous. All I have to do is think of some good questions to ask people….”How is your summer so far, any good vacations?” “Read any good books lately?” These easy questions usually open-up a dialogue that makes it easy to ask follow-up questions. Then, you have some good touch points when following-up with them later! Another good tip I received was find someone in the room with a great outfit or good hair and then compliment them on it! Great way to start a conversation.

    • Liz says...

      Joanna, Hope, and Samantha: Thank you, all great tips!!