Career Path

The Career Nomad's Guide to Networking

More jobs in a lifetime mean more connections. How to keep your network vast but useful.

Take a look at Kevin Peguero’s LinkedIn connections, and you may not see that many common ties to his current gig as a digital marketer. Sure, there are some, but so are a variety of connections with real estate agents, entrepreneurs, and business development folks.  

That’s because, at the age of 26, he’s already on his third career. And chances are, he’ll be moving on to his next one fairly soon, which is where his sweeping network could come in handy.  

One of the best ways to think about your network is as a garden—a living, breathing thing that must be tended to constantly.

Studies have found that CEOs with a more diverse network, both in terms of background and skill set, create higher value for a company. Those robust networks are even more important in the nomad economy, when people switch jobs about every four years. “People are moving so much faster,” says Frances Weir, a Korn Ferry Advance coach.

But you should still be discerning about whom you bring into your network. And maintaining those relationships must be done in an authentic and nuanced way. Here’s how to network, nomad-style.

What can you offer?

So much of networking is thought of as what our connections can do for us. But a better path toward building a successful and helpful network is to reverse the question: what can you offer your connections? “If you’re giving more than you’re getting, chances are when you need something, you’ll get it,” Weir says. “Psychologically, when people receive something, they’re motivated to give back.”  

Touch base often—but not too often.

One of the worst things you can do when you have a widespread network is to let your connections run dry without regularly touching base. The other worst thing you can do? Pester your connections so often that they stop responding to messages or requests to grab a coffee. “You need to judge when it’s appropriate to reach out based on what channel you’re using and your level of closeness,” Weir says. It may be appropriate, for example, to say congrats on LinkedIn if you see they’re celebrating a work anniversary—but only if you’re close enough to know they’re happy in their job and not on the verge of quitting. “If there’s a genuine reason to get in touch it’s going to fly,” Weir adds.

Grow your garden slowly.

One of the best ways to think about your network is as a garden—a living, breathing thing that must be tended to constantly. The key to successful additions is to start small and look for personal connections, not just a random LinkedIn invitation. Try to extend your network across geographies and industries with personal connections. “For instance, if marketers know that data science is transforming marketing, then they need to grow their network in that space because that’s where the function is moving,” says Jeanne Meister, founder of the advisory firm Future Workplace.

Bounce your ideas off your network.

Your network isn’t just for scouting out new opportunities. It’s also great to engage them for lower-stakes questions. Peguero, for example, often checks with his online entrepreneur friends when he’s trying out a new digital marketing strategy. He can bounce his idea off them and get feedback, or offer up his idea to them as something to consider. This tactic can also help you grow your network, because a connection could want to introduce you to a friend or colleague, based on your idea.

For more on the nomad economy trend, check out how to dip a toe in and Korn Ferry CEO Gary Burnison’s take on job tenures.

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