Golden Tip No. 7: Build Your Own Social Capital
Golden Guide Career Advice is a new series from the AMA in partnership with Lydia Lazar, author of Dean Lazar’s Golden Guide: Pragmatic Career Advice for Smart Young People. A new tip in the series will be posted each Tuesday—all tips are available here.
Do you have a career question? Contact Lazar at firstname.lastname@example.org—the answer may appear in a future post.
As you grow your professional network, your challenge will be to leverage these contacts. Don’t underestimate the power of weak or loose ties. Build your own personal social capital by continuously investing time and attention in socializing and networking.
Some people are intimidated by networking, while others seem to have an instinctive feel for building their social and professional networks. Whichever side of that divide you are on, you can definitely develop and enhance your networking skills over time. Like anything worth doing, networking is worth doing well and if you take it step by step, you will quickly become a networking pro.
Networking starts with talking to people in your inner circle, and expands over time into outreach to strangers. Your inner circle are the people closest to you – your family, your friends, your professors and mentors, even perhaps a high school teacher. Some of your inner circle folks may only know you slightly – or may have known you when you were younger, so you need to help them by sharing your career interests as well as the names of possible companies and organizations where you’d like to work.
Ask your inner circle for ideas, suggestions and referrals to people they may know who might be able to help you as you search for the next great opportunity. If they are on LinkedIn, ask if you can connect with them so that you can search their contacts for possible leads to people who might talk with you.
You can rehearse your draft narratives about who you are and what you are interested in with your inner circle – and ask them for feedback on your self–presentation.
Then, reach out to the people who your inner circle referred you to. While you should assume that what you say might get back to your inner circle supporter, you can’t assume that the new person will definitely reach back, so the burden is on you to be sure to let your supporter know if a contact they provided results in a call or a meeting.
Why is so important to let your supporter know what happens with the contacts they provide you? Because your supporter asked someone to do them a favor and meet (or talk) with you. If you don’t share updates with your supporter, they won’t be able to circle back to their contact to thank them. Remember: What goes around comes around, and maintaining your connections over time will help you build your social capital.
Continuously build out your circles of contacts and acquaintances. Often, it is not the people closest to us who are the most helpful, but rather the people we are connected to indirectly. Remember to keep track of who you are being referred to and who you are meeting on a spreadsheet so you can follow up effectively. Never underestimate the power of weak or loose ties as you continue to develop your network.
For more career tips, read Dean Lazar’s Golden Guide: Pragmatic Career Advice for Smart Young People, available on Amazon and at your local bookstore. Do you have a career question? Contact Lazar at email@example.com—the answer may appear in a future post.