Make friends and wait twenty years
Networking is hard and uncomfortable for introverts. Instead of constantly chasing new people, we need to consciously form community in our careers and stick with those people over time.
The best way to network is to make friends and wait twenty years. This is a game of quality, not quantity, because one person who will call you for a job is worth one thousand people who will endorse you on LinkedIn for “Microsoft Office.”
There are two parts to this, and usually, when I say this to people, they focus on the first part: Making friends.
There’s a good chance you already know how to do this, we are all adults who made it through elementary school. I’d like to offer an amended definition of a friend in this sense: Someone whose company you enjoy and whose input you respect in the context of information architecture. Someone with whom you collaborate well. You do not have to spend time with these people outside of work, you don’t have to share deep intimacies, but I would like you to consider what mutual benefit you may bring to each other outside of your current roles. - School is a great place to make these kinds of friends, and most of us are used to it, but current or previous workplaces can be good options too. - Close the loop. Nobody ever follows up! - Find allies who don’t know they think like IAs at work. - Office hours. - Lend books. - Gratitude practice.
The second part, “Wait twenty years,” seems like the easy part. It’s not. This does not mean twiddle your thumbs and be happy for what you have! “Just be patient” is my least favorite advice, ever, probably.
- Ladies working brunches.
- USE your network. As much and as often as possible. Ask questions.
- Pay attention to the invisible rules you’re playing by. Has anybody told you that you can’t hire someone you know from school? That calling a friend to prep for an interview is cheating? In my experience, people from underrepresented backgrounds have many more of these invisible rules
- A network is one of the things that you get hired for. Play it up! Any information architect in the world will take your call. Nobody else has to know that you think that’s not that impressive.