Networking the Issa (Rae) Way
[Cover image is property and courtesy of AdWeek Magazine]
Recently in an interview with Roland Martin for News One, Issa Rae -- of Insecure and Awkward Black Girl fame (but honestly, does she need introduction at this point?) -- offered some timely wisdom on the art of networking that most people sadly seem to miss. Networking across instead of up is the fastest and most effective way to get results, especially when you're in a young, formative season of growing as an entrepreneur, or an up-and-coming creator.
When we're trying to grow our careers or expand business, it's tempting to look towards the Who's Who and try to attach yourself to those that have already made it. However, these Who's are typically at a level that means they can't work with everyone, let alone take the time to provide (free) advice. Thus, some people ultimately end up wasting huge amounts of valuable time -- and sometimes hard-earned capital that could have been used for better purposes -- trying hard to network with such coveted individuals.
All the while, there are probably people to your left and to your right just waiting for the chance to work with you and help you grow. Not only that, but these individuals are typically that much more eager to help because they've got goals to achieve right along with you.
Here are some easy ways to make this happen and get great results:
1. Keep a running inventory of your closest network's skills and capabilities. Use an excel spreadsheet, a note app like Evernote, or the built in iOS Notes app to keep a list of the traits and skills you might need to meet certain goals or create a project. If you're really savvy, you could even attach their résumés for easy review. This makes it even easier to help others in need get connected with people in your network, which can also prove a great move at a later time. People always remember the ones that come through when they're in need, so why not be ready? Plus you're helping a friend.
2. Create a group chat or group text for specific tiers of your network. Maybe you have a segment of peers who work in the music field, and a segment that works in visual arts. Make it easy for everyone to stay connected and discuss events, meetups, opportunities by hosting or planning a group chat or text. Apps like Groupme and Slack are perfect for this.
3. When you're in need, post to your network first and foremost. Before you head to a job board, or an industry specific resource, post opportunities or requests to your personal networks first. You'd be surprised how many people might already be connected with you that are looking to provide just what you need, or know someone who can. You'll have a much easier time wooing work and partnerships from a personal referral that can vouch for you than you will seeking strangers in other venues on the internet. Send mass text messages (sparingly and respectfully) and post status updates on Facebook to get that leg up before you solicit from strangers.
4. Use your lunch hour or company happy hour wisely. Most of your coworkers have ambitions and goals, talents and skill sets that go well beyond your workplace. While you're having lunch or enjoying a company outing, don't hesitate to chat about your future plans and projects beyond work -- ensuring it's not something that could be considered a conflict of interest to your employer, or something that could prove to be damaging to your reputation at work beforehand, of course. These people already know your work ethic, and if you happen to be working at a job that's not the most attractive, you can be sure your coworker will be that much more motivated to work on projects that could see them leave the payroll behind too. Even your boss might find themselves excited to learn what you're after outside work, and they also get to see your strengths and talents in a different light when they find out you've been, say, writing a screenplay on the side, which could come in handy for work needs.
5. Make sure you're on LinkedIn (shameless plug to ensue...). We are big advocates to maintaining an up-to-date profile and being active at least once daily on LinkedIn. It's the largest app and social network centric to simply networking. This is the one place on the web where everyone can feel free shouting out to the mountains about their skills and talents, and feel no guilt reaching out to people in and beyond your network about working together. If you profile is a little rusty or you'd like to really maximize your potential, we've got something for you waiting behind the click :) check it out!
If you've got some other examples of networking across vs. up, or stories of how this has changed your life for the better, be sure to leave it in the comments below.
And no matter what you do, take the brilliant advice of the incomparable Puerto Rican Princess, Joseline Hernandez:
Til next time!