How do you actually network to land a new job? Microsoft's ex-VP of HR explains

There's no better way to find a new job than through networking. Oftentimes, the best hires and the most exciting roles are discovered through people you know. With a strong set of connections, when that dream job opens up, someone in your network might say, "Hey, I know the perfect person for that role." This is why people often emphasize networking to advance their careers. But how exactly do you do that? 

With over 40 years of experience in business, including a stint as VP of HR at Microsoft, I've seen individuals truly excel at building career-enhancing networks. Here’s what they do:

### Connect with Coworkers Outside Your Department

To succeed in networking, you need to expand your visibility beyond your daily coworkers. Get out of your immediate bubble. When you gain exposure outside your immediate sphere, you amplify your presence. These new connections will introduce you to even more people, exponentially expanding your network.

While it's enjoyable to interact with those who share your interests and skills, staying within your niche limits your network's growth. The trick is to look outside your discipline. If you're in finance, connect with people in sales, marketing, development, HR, manufacturing, or other areas. Get to know people far and wide.

Understanding how every part of the organization works not only helps you perform your job better but also builds allies across the company. You can say, "I know Anne who works over there; let me talk to her about that."

### Network with Other Organizations in Your Industry

Better yet, step outside your current organization. Look for other companies in your industry that are doing interesting things. Consider organizations that operate very differently from your own.

The value lies in understanding how things work elsewhere. How do they motivate people? How do they collaborate across disciplines? How do they hire great talent? Handle lean times?

All organizations face similar challenges, and it can be enlightening to see how others handle them. This knowledge makes you more valuable to your company. You might say, "I've seen how they do it in the sprinkler system industry—they handle it like this."

### Where to Look

Where do you find all these people? They’re everywhere.

Within your organization, you can network at budget meetings, HR training classes, company all-hands meetings, and even those monthly Zoom meetings you dislike but must attend.

Outside your organization, they’re at that conference you attended last year, on social media discussing industry frustrations, in Reddit forums for your discipline, or on that gaming Discord server. They could be the other parent at your kid's soccer match, the neighbor down the street, the person at church, the volunteer at a nonprofit fundraiser, or the hiker in your occasional group.

Reach out and ask, "Hey, I’d love to grab a coffee or have a Zoom call to learn more about what you do." Almost no one would refuse that conversation.

### Be Curious

But what if you know nothing about those other disciplines or organizations? That’s the fun part. Meeting new people is a chance to learn and broaden your scope.

Be curious and ask lots of meaningful questions. Not just what they do, but how it works. What does a typical day or month look like? What are their biggest challenges? 

Dig deeper with questions like, "That seems tough—how do you stay motivated?" or "That sounds exciting—what are some big wins you've had?"

### Focus on the Other Person

In these conversations, focus on the person you're networking with. Keep the discussion mostly about them. Ask great questions to get them talking about their job, challenges, and successes.

Avoid personal topics unless they invite them. Stick to work-related subjects to avoid sensitive areas. People love a good conversation where they can share their knowledge. They'll think you're smart and thoughtful just because you showed interest, asked insightful questions, and listened attentively.

### The Results Take Time but Last Forever

The results of great networking aren’t immediate. It takes years to build a robust network of connections. But a great network can last a lifetime. Keep in touch with the people you meet, and those connections will endure forever, offering a rich life of options and opportunities.

Networking builds resilience in your career. If your company faces hard times, a strong network of people who know you can be invaluable. They might defend you, find you a new spot, or connect you with other opportunities.

Make networking a priority. Aim to make a new connection each week. Soon, you'll have a rich network as invested in your success as you are.  

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