Networking and mentorship have been two cornerstones of my career development. Whether it’s to find new roles, explore opportunities, or to seek advice from someone who has explored a path you’re interested in, it’s valuable to have a strong network you can tap into.
In this article, I’ll explain ways that you can grow and leverage your network to help you in your PM career.
For anyone first starting out in their career, I recommend keeping tabs on all of the professional/personal contacts you consider valuable in one central location. For most people, that’s a service like LinkedIn.
The sweet spot for LinkedIn connections is 500+ (nobody can tell your specific number of connections past this point). The number of connections serves a few purposes. It makes you seem like a well-connected individual, it helps you keep tabs on who is at what company and in what roles, and lastly, it helps others find you!
While 500 connections may seem daunting, you probably have a solid base of acquaintances that you can already connect with on LinkedIn. I recommend starting with people you know/have met in real life:
For example, I started by adding friends from my high school, undergrad, and grad school acquaintances. From there, I began adding co-workers that I would meet as I navigated through the early part of my career. Remember, these connections will be the core of your network and you’ll use this to expand/leverage your network moving forward.
While your inner circle may have the expertise/connections/advice you’re seeking, most of the time you will need to know someone else in order to get what you’re looking for.
Have you ever heard of the ‘Six degrees of separation’? The principle is basically that any two people are connected, on average, by 6 or fewer social connections. This is why networking is so important.
Here are some ways you can leverage your existing network in order to grow and expand your reach:
When you reach out to new or existing connections, you need to make sure you’re not asking for too much. This of course can vary depending on your comfort level with the individual. Remember, trust is an equity and new connections likely have little to no trust with you.
Here’s some tips on how to appropriately structure the ‘ask’:
One of my favorite tips I like to give those looking to grow/expand their network is to constantly be providing value. Not only will you keep your tools sharp by sharing your expertise, many times you’ll be unknowingly planting networking seeds that you can sow later on.
There have been numerous times where I’ve helped junior PMs who have then returned the favor to me years down the road. Even more immediately, you should try and find ways to thank those who have taken time out of their busy day to help you progress in your own PM journey.
Here are some ways you can provide value:
There are many ways that people can build and grow their networks. Networks take a lot of time and nurturing in order to really reap the benefits, but I promise that it’s well worth the effort. Remember to not only ask for value but also provide it. I encourage all of you to get out there and start connecting!
Looking for a great community to network with? You’re in the right place! Exponent provides a fantastic community for people looking to kickstart their tech careers. Check it out at tryexponent.com
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