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Why Your Peers Are The Strongest Network You Have
Unless you live under a rock, chances are, your everyday activities will involve some level of networking. Networking is critical. It provides the knowledge, resources and support system that can sustain your personal development. Everyone does it, even unconsciously.
From what I’ve observed, however, is that most people have a flawed perception of networking. Many people think the act of sharing information goes only one direction and are often confused at who they should even be networking with. During events, they tend to target either prominent attendees or panelists, as if they are the only people who can help them achieve their goals or learn something from.
I’ve had many elevator chats with people who went home with their stack of business cards almost untouched because they didn’t get to speak with the people they wanted to. The truth is, effective networking runs on a give-and-take basis. Anyone you see on a daily basis or at a networking event can offer valuable insight for your career.
Most importantly, the biggest network that we too often don’t take advantage of is the one that is the most accessible to us: our peers.
Why Peers Are The Strongest Network We Have…But We So Often Neglect…
Who are they? At a networking event, they are the people who, like you, are either looking to make a connection, find a mentor or learn about a particular topic. Our peers include classmates, friends and colleagues. We tend to underestimate our peers because they are generally at the same stage in life and have similar goals so we have. We assume they can’t help us in any significant way, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Our peers have knowledge, experience and talents that can benefit us. For example, an old classmate could be the one who refers you to their manager for potential hiring. We shouldn’t underestimate how much our peers can contribute to us or how much we can help them.
The other benefit of utilizing this group for networking is that it’s easier to maintain relationships with this group because they are people you already know. Here are some ways in which you can successfully network with your peers:

1. Take interest and ask questions

The best way to find out how you can help someone (or vice-versa) is by asking questions. Ask about their background, their current jobs, their career aspirations, short or long-term goals and really anything to keep the conversation going. You can send monthly check-in emails to a group of old connections or send out invitations to coffee or lunch dates to get to know what’s going on in their lives. People love talking about themselves so be there to listen. You can learn a lot from them and at the same time, be sure to participate in the conversation as well.

2. Organize mastermind groups

When you’re lucky to meet a group of like-minded people, it’s worth exploring that connection. Start a meetup group and get together frequently to openly talk about your goals, the obstacles that you encounter and your progress. Being part of support groups can only move you forward. It’s a great way to stay motivated and not fall behind as you hold each other accountable.

3. Share your experiences

I recently connected with someone after sharing my experience interning at Hearst Magazines. She was offered a position there and wanted to have a better understanding of the company’s culture in order to make a decision on whether or not to take the internship. She was wise to ask someone who had been in that position before.
When you share your experiences, you open yourself up to constructive feedback as people can point out mistakes that you wouldn’t have otherwise realized you made. Or they can praise you for accomplishing things that you might not be giving yourself enough credit for. Always be open to listening to people and sharing your story because many life lessons are found through just doing this.

4. Exchange knowledge and information

When you make it a habit of listening to people and voicing your goals, you position yourself to be a contributor and to also stay on top of industry news and important events. My friends and I consistently email each other useful articles, links to job postings or important events happening because we know each other’s interests. Having this kind of support is very enriching and it helps stay focused.

5. Peer-to-peer coaching

I heard that term for the first time at Eventsy’s Women’s Empowerment Summit. If your peers have particular skills, use that to your advantage. If an old classmate knows how to design business cards, ask for their services before hiring a professional. The same way, if you’re good at cover letter writing, for example, help your peers proofread their job applications. Harnessing your network’s abilities will cost less and be more beneficial to all of you.

6. Attend networking events together

Attending networking events with your peers have its perks. It makes it easier to spark a conversation with someone. You can also spread out and speak to as many people as possible and then share the things you’ve learned. We are constantly surrounded by our peers and it’s a network that we interact with daily. Learning how to optimize it is a worthy investment.
Do you find yourself neglecting your peers during your job search or career development? What do you think? I would love to hear your comments below.
Related Post: Quick Guide: How to Network at Networking Events

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