People often think of networking as something you do as part of a job search—it’s a way to meet more people and get your name out there. But networking can be a valuable tool in other situations as well, and it shouldn’t stop simply because you begin a new job. To continue networking after you’ve landed the job, simply change your approach.
First, you need to figure out your networking goals. Perhaps you want to grow your skills or expertise in a certain area, build your profile and reputation in your field, or find a mentor or mentorship opportunities. Networking can help you achieve each of these goals, but your approach may differ depending on what you want to achieve.
If you’ve recently started a new job, try these three tips to keep building your network.
Ask for suggestions
You usually don’t have to go very far to expand your network. In fact, the best contacts may be easily accessible through your new coworkers.
Who in your organization is most likely to know the kinds of people you’re hoping to meet? When you have a coworker in mind, try broaching the subject using one of these questions:
- “If I want to learn more about X, who should I get to know?”
- “When you started in this role/this field, who did you find it most helpful to talk to?”
You can also lay the groundwork for future networking by getting to know your colleagues: “As I learn the lay of the land, I’m finding it helpful to talk to people around here about what they do and how they got here. Would you be interested in grabbing a cup of coffee sometime in the next two weeks?”
Pro Tip: If coworkers are going to go the extra mile and introduce you to a suggested contact over email, follow our dos and don’ts for connecting with people over email.
Attend in-person meetings and events in your field
Try to put yourself in situations where you can meet people face to face, just as you would if you were still looking for new job opportunities. For example, if you have the choice between attending a meeting in person or via conference call, go in person. Attending meetings and other events in person will help you recognize—and be recognized by— your colleagues and peers in other organizations and can help you to establish rapport with others in your field. While everyone is getting settled before the meeting starts, talk to the people around you instead of scrolling through your phone.
To find relevant events, you can use nearly all the same resources that you used during your job search, such as professional associations in your field, conferences, Meetups, and Idealist Day events. You can also look for any events that get passed around your office, such as announcements for lectures or receptions hosted by other organizations. Your boss may also be able to help you identify events to attend.
Before you go anywhere, hone your “elevator pitch.” This should be a short (ideally 30-45-second) explanation of who you are, what you offer, and what you’re looking for. Since you’ve just landed a new job, you should get used to introducing yourself with your new title and reconsider how to best present your goals to others at networking events.
Play the “I’m new” card
You only get to use this card for a few months, so make it count! Referencing the fact that you’re new to your job can be the hook for starting a conversation or asking to talk to someone further.
Acknowledging that you’re new doesn’t mean selling yourself short or implying that you don’t deserve to be here; it’s simply an “in” to get and keep a conversation going. For example:
When starting a conversation:
- “Hi, I don’t think we’ve met yet. I just started at [ORGANIZATION X] in [ROLE]. What organization are you from?”
- “This is my first time at this event, since I just started at [ORGANIZATION X] in [ROLE]. Have you been to these events before?”
- “Mind if I join you at this table? I’m new here, since I just started at [ORGANIZATION X], so I’m looking to meet some friendly faces.”
To continue the conversation:
- “I’m still settling into my new role, and I think it would be helpful to learn more about what you do/what your organization does.”
- “As I get to know the field, I’d love to learn more about what you do/your organization does.”
- “Could I follow up with a few questions over email? I’m finding it very useful to talk to people in the field as I’m settling into this position.”
When making requests, remember that you’re not the first person who’s been new to a job, nor will you be the last. Some people field these types of requests frequently, so they may say no due to the time commitment—and that’s okay.
Whether you’re networking during a job search or just looking to grow your circle of acquaintances, you can be certain that things won’t work out 100 percent of the time; you won’t form a connection with every single person you meet, and that shouldn’t be the goal. The ultimate goal is to build authentic relationships, not to rack up the most business cards.
If you recalibrate your networking strategy early in your new job, you’ll greatly increase your chances of having some quality relationships by the time you’re six months or one year in. Good luck, and happy networking!
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As a nonprofit advocacy professional living in Washington, D.C., Deborah works with groups across the country to educate their communities and lawmakers about public policies that can help low-income residents make ends meet. She is passionate about helping people connect their interests to a cause they believe in and empowering them to take action.