According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2020 employee tenure report, “The median number of years that … workers had been with their current employer was 4.1 years in January 2020” (1). Of course, that number varied widely within age brackets. The median for ages 55+ was 9.9 years and just 2.8 years for those in the 25-34 demographic. Even without the pandemic and the great reshuffle, there’s a high likelihood you’ll be looking for a job sooner vs. later.
Given the high odds you will want a job in the next 3-5 years, what can you do today to ensure you’ll be ready to move when the time comes?
Networking, and more networking.
Networking isn’t just for people who need a job yesterday. It is one of the most important skills you can build to advance your career in the short, medium, and long term. In the words of a Harvard Business Review article, whether you occupy a leadership role or are striving for one, “the alternative to networking is to fail” (2).
In this article, we discuss three focus areas for networking that will help you position yourself well for your next career move, whether it’s now or in five years
• Within your current company
• Other companies in your field
• Adjacent industries
Networking Within Your Current Company
Unless you work for a very small firm, there are many people for you to get to know right where you work. However, short-sighted companies keep employees in silos and may not afford such connections. However, co-workers are very easy to find on LinkedIn, and there may be internal channels for meeting them as well. Customers, vendors, and regulators may also contribute to your internal network even though they are not co-workers. The aforementioned Harvard Business Review article suggests three categories of networking relationships: operational, personal, and strategic (2), the details of which are beyond the scope of this newsletter.
Find people within your company who will help you perform better in your current role and people who can help you think beyond your immediate job title to form future-minded alliances. However, your company networking might have limitations, which is why you should keep reading to find out where you might find those important connections. Bear in mind that these connections are all important; don’t pursue one type at the expense of the others.
Networking with Aligned Professionals
Get to know people who do similar work to yours but who don’t work for your company. By doing so, you will help to break the silo effect that is very common in the post-industrial world. Of course, you can’t share trade secrets, but getting outside the bubble of your regular environment will help spur new thoughts and approaches. Maybe you’ll learn something directly related to your job function, and maybe you’ll discover that someone with the same job description and a comparable background is making $50k more than you. Or that other people in your field have far larger teams than yours. As Sun Tzu says, “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer”.
If you put the time and energy into building relationships with others in your field, you’re also likely to learn about job openings for which you have an internal advocate. If you start these relationships now rather than waiting until your job searching, you won’t seem desperate when those jobs open — you’ll just be in the right place at the right time.
Making an effort to meet more people in your field can also help you advance through coaching or mentoring. If you get involved in trade associations, alumni groups, or clubs, you are likely to meet people who have succeeded in some of the areas in which you would like to succeed. These are people who can help you achieve your goals by sharing information and connections — but only if you meet them.
Networking in Adjacent Industries
Getting to know people in adjacent fields can be very valuable for two reasons: if you plan to be in or reach a leadership position or if you might want to pivot your career. If you want to be at the top tier of a company, you simply have to know the people who will help move things in the right direction.
Fifteen years ago, a banker may have had no reason to associate with people in tech, but today banks need to collaborate with tech companies across every area, from customer acquisition to compliance. If you’re on the buy-side you might see no reason to make friends on the sell-side, but the benefit of understanding perspectives beyond your own will serve you in your career.
Many of my clients come to me because they want to make a lateral move into an adjacent area — someone on Wall Street wants to move to FinTech, someone on the buy-side wants to move to the sell-side, etc. I am glad to help these people. It’s my job, I like doing it, and it’s how I make a living, but it’s also not rocket science. If you start listening to me now instead of in 4 years when you hate your boss and you have to get a new job immediately, you’ll save yourself a good chunk of change.
For practical advice on how to implement these ideas and start connecting with the people who will help you advance your career, see my previous article, “James Webb Telescope Discovers Resume-Sucking Black Hole” .
1. Bureau of Labor Statistics “Employee Tenure Summary” September 22 2020. accessed 4/25/22
2. Ibarra, Herminia and Mark Lee Hunter: “How Leaders Create and Use Networks” Harvard Business Review January 2007. Accessed 4/25/22