September 18, 2018 ・ Written by T.J. Duane

What even is Networking?

It’s less intimidating than you think.

What even is Networking?

I’m constantly talking to BrightCrowd members about their experiences and struggles with networking. More and more I’ve been hearing the same refrain: they’re not sure what “counts” as networking.

Obviously going to an industry mixer, or messaging somebody for an informational interview counts as networking. But it turns out the same early-career folks who say they’re not networking, are doing the following:

  • Messaging people they found on Youtube to ask about about a project.
  • Asking questions about people’s career paths, just because they’re curious.
  • Looking at projects on Github and talking with the portfolio owner.

All of this day-to-day, casual interaction? It’s totally networking. (It counts!)

If you’re stepping outside your usual circles, it’s networking. If you’re asking a friend or a colleague “Hey, how’d you do that? I’d like to learn,” it’s networking. If you collaborate briefly on a project and take the conversation outside of work, you’re 100% in the networking zone.

The point is, this is all stuff that we do naturally. When we’re curious, when we’re trying to figure something out, when we just want to get to know somebody better. It’s all helping you enrich your professional life, and build relationships that could help you down the road. You’re probably already networking at some level — you just don’t know it yet.

You don’t need a perfect resume to network

Another BrightCrowd member expressed a really common fear that I’ve got to dispel. They said, “If you want to message anyone on any sort of networking site, you have to have a resume that really, really stands out and is amazing, or else nobody will pay attention to you.”

It’s an understandable feeling, but it couldn’t be farther from the truth. Sure, a killer resume might bump up your response rate, but it’s not a prerequisite to talking with somebody you find interesting.

Reaching out to professionals in your field with honest questions is always OK. It doesn’t matter if you have no experience. Everybody started out that way — we all know what it’s like to be at the beginning. You don’t have to have brilliant credentials to start networking, many professionals genuinely enjoy helping folks who aren’t so far along. Networking can be as simple as a quick phone conversation, or an email. It’s not a heavy lift, it’s not a long term commitment. Just be sure to say thank you if somebody grants you their time.

When you follow up with someone interesting, ask an old colleague out for drinks, or comment on a video you saw online — these are all awesome, low-friction ways to start networking. Hopefully now you can see, you’ve got this networking thing down already.