We have a tendency to approach a career as a “ladder” –always looking upward to the next promotion or raise. There’s no doubt that networking with advisers has benefits, but it shouldn’t simply be limited to your mentors or role models.
When you’re young, “networking” often means meeting people more influential than you are. However, it’s not only important to cultivate relationships with people who are influential, but also to make connections with those who will become influential. The idea of networking with your peers isn’t a new one, but it’s astounding how few people do it.
Networking is a word that makes many people groan, yet it is essential to thriving personally and professionally. But when done right, networking should be fun—relationships, both personal and professionals, should always be reciprocal, not transactional.
Whether you’re 23 or 63, no one is superior or inferior to you. In cultivating these connections, recognize that we contribute equally not identically. By connecting with people at similar career stages, we can gain access to information and help hone each other’s skills. Lift as you climb.
Here are a few tips to help you reap the benefits of networking with your fellow millennials:
1. Create a community network of peers
When was the last time you went out with colleagues for lunch or coffee? How often do you reach out to your contacts? While we’re all inundated with emails and texts, we can always make the effort to reach out—even if it’s just a brief email or phone call. Keeping the lines of communication open means that you’re engaged and interested in someone’s personal and professional development, and more likely than not, they’ll also be interested in your own journey.
Short on time, but want to maximize opportunities to re-connect with friends and colleagues or meet new people? Consider organizing a dinner party or coordinate an activity like a group fitness class or art exhibit. It’s an opportunity to have fun while you build trust through network.
2. Think aloud
Millennials are the most adaptable, creative generation in history. Wisdom isn’t all about age. It would be foolish not to tap into this generation’s innovative spirit.
When I’m looking for ideas, the first people I ask are my friends because they come from diverse perspectives. They’re artists, psychologists, policy analysts, financiers, and more. While we might not be in the same industries, hearing a range of opinions from different backgrounds helps me refine my own ideas and think outside the box. The best “aha” moments often come from the most unexpected sources. They also introduce me to opportunities that I might not otherwise come across if I’m thinking narrowly about my own field.
3. Ask questions
You’ll never get what you don’t ask for. While your peers might not be in a hiring position, they might be able to offer valuable insights on everything from upcoming opportunities to the office environment. Looking for a job at a particular organization? Comb your peer networks to ask about the perspectives of any friends working there. Entry- or mid-level professionals might notice things that senior staff is oblivious to.
4. Stay grounded
It’s easy to get star struck by people who’ve spent decades climbing to the top and have accrued a daunting list of achievements and accolades. Connecting with people your own age can help put life into perspective. That 22-year-old who just won a Pulitzer or got accepted into a major Ph.D. program? He or she can probably tell you about the many failures they’ve encountered on the road to success. Talking to your peers can keep you grounded by providing more realistic expectations of your progress in achieving your goals.