How to Network Your Way to More Advanced Titles and Better Pay
By Caleb Malik
Networking Your Way to a Dream Job
In the seven years since graduating from college, I’ve attended graduate school, held four full-time roles, and simultaneously managed a slew of side-gig positions.
Not one of these experiences was earned without the influence of a personal connection.
Here’s my advice after networking my way to more advanced titles, greater compensation, and a career I’m proud of.
Broaden Your Definition of Networking
When you hear “networking,” what image comes to mind?
If you’re like most people, you probably imagine a hotel conference room with high top tables and people with name tags milling about with a drink in their hand.
You’re not wrong, this is networking, but it shouldn’t define networking. It’s just one of many ways to network.
Networking is merely the process of building mutually beneficial connections with other professionals.
You’re Always Networking
With the definition above in mind, it’s important to remember that everyone you know is a professional.
You don’t stop being a professional just because it’s after five.
Your friend might have laughed when you told them you spend most of your workday looking at memes. They’ll probably laugh harder if you were to follow that statement by asking them to help you get a job at their company.
This mindset of perpetual networking has led to more professional growth opportunities than anything else for me.
When I was interviewing for my first job out of graduate school, I had just moved over 1,600 miles from central Illinois to Phoenix. I felt like I was on an island. I knew three people. They all lived in Surprise and held jobs completely unrelated to my field.
A member of my thesis committee offered to put me in touch with an old friend from his PhD program.
Within five minutes of meeting is friend, she offered to help me get a job as an adjunct professor at Phoenix College. I love teaching and needed income. This was a huge win, and I attribute it to how I carried myself in the classroom, both as a student and as an instructor.
Nevertheless, few adjunct professors pay the bills on teaching alone. I still needed work, and I was certain my network had dried up.
Fortunately, this wasn’t the case. When interviewing for my first full-time marketing job, the interviewer and I realized that his aunt was a family friend back in Illinois.
He had put on her roof; I had mulched her yard. Do you think he called my references or his aunt?
I never thought that doing right by this family friend would help me get my first full-time job in marketing.
These instances may sound like a fluke, but nontraditional and informal networking has played a role throughout my career.
Following graduation, I was a finalist for a sales role at McGraw-Hill Education—all because I introduced myself to a guest speaker after class.
I’ve built a freelancing side-gig to 30k per year, and my first client came from providing a friend some free marketing advice and noting that I was looking for freelance opportunities.
Then there was the time I transitioned into a sales role and doubled my income—in spite of limited sales experience—all because I met a friend for drinks and mentioned a desire to get into sales at a marketing agency.
The moral of these stories is that you never stop networking.
Your friends, family, and acquaintances will notice if you take work seriously. They’ll assume that who you are outside of work reflects who you are when you’re at work.
This is the most important piece of advice I can give you.
Show Passion For Your Craft and Become a Resource
You can put all your eggs in the networking basket, shout your career goals from the rooftops, and attend a formal networking event every week. But none of this matters if you’re not passionate about your job, growing your skills, and demonstrating your knowledge.
This is, of course, relative to what stage your career has reached —young professionals shouldn’t stress because they are less skilled than a 20-year veteran.
There is no silver bullet for young professionals. You need to put in work.
Each month, I have a goal to read 300 pages of work-related books and take a professional certification course. I don’t always achieve this goal, but when I fail, I’m still exceeding the average of my peers.
Not only do I grow my knowledge, but I illustrate it. I share it with clients, coworkers, and friends who need marketing advice.
Just yesterday I met with a professional acquaintance over Zoom and fixed a problem they had with their website using skills I recently learned in a web development course.
Will this specific act lead to the achievement of my next career goal?
Probably not, but when you can provide help like this repeatedly to people in your network, you will inevitably open doors in your career.
Don’t Overlook Networking Online
Networking online is nothing new, but it is evolving. It’s gone beyond simply keeping a current LinkedIn profile and connecting with other users.
There are now entire communities being built around online happy-hours and industry- and role-specific Slack channels.
These are opportunities to connect and build relationships with thought leaders in your industry, the type of leaders most professionals are dying to work for.
You can live in Phoenix and build a relationship with a thought leader you admire who lives in Atlanta, and then get a remote job working for them.
This level of access and extent to which your network can spread geographically is unprecedented. Don’t miss out on this opportunity.
Next time you hear about a virtual happy hour in your industry or someone invites you to a Slack channel for professionals like you, take advantage of the opportunity to build your network.
About that Dream Job…
Dream jobs, in the traditional sense, are a myth.
Many young professionals act like there are a handful of dream jobs out there for them. They put pressure on themselves to earn those dream jobs and are crushed when they get rejection letters.
I’ve had friends target companies that had their dream job. They fought to get in and work for that perfect leader in that perfect role, only to find out that their boss was a jerk and the company was in disarray.
Some dream job…
Don’t worry about getting the dream job. Worry about getting the dream job for now.
When I got my first full-time, marketing role, I earned less than I wanted at a company I’d never heard of. It doesn’t sound like a dream job, but I was given a lot of breadth in the role.
I wrote content, I was responsible for SEO, I optimized Google Ads, I managed updates on the website, and the list goes on.
I had a boss that I enjoyed working for who taught me a ton of technical skills. What he couldn’t teach me, he gave me on-the-job time to learn through reading and self-guided courses.
It was the dream job for that moment in my life, but eventually I felt like my growth was plateauing, and I needed to make more money.
So, I got the next dream job, then the next one, then the next one…
After that first role, my dream jobs found me.
I didn’t actively seek them out. They presented themselves because networking is a mindset, not something that you do when you’re sick of your current role.
If you consistently operate like a dream candidate, your dream job will find you.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Caleb Malik is Director of Digital Marketing at Casual Astronaut and Co-Founder of Skill Up, a place where sales and marketing professionals can find the latest free professional development opportunities.