You may have 1,000 followers on Twitter and 500 connections on LinkedIn, but that doesn’t mean you have real connections. Networking is a two-way street. If you are trying to influence someone, then you have to be willing to be influenced. That means not just getting what you need, but really trying to help others achieve their goals. At the heart of every successful network, you will discover people who have developed genuine connections and are willing to share.
Paying it Forward
“Networking has been a critical part of just about every job I’ve landed, and every project I wanted to initiate,” says QVC’s Director of Community Affairs Suzanne Quigley. “I’ve been lucky to have strong women as mentors.” A graduate of Villanova University with a political science major and a minor in women’s studies, Suzanne had intended to pursue a legal career, but after a year of volunteer work, she fell in love with the non-profit community and decided to pursue a career in philanthropy.
When Suzanne was ready to move into the corporate world, she was able to seek guidance from those trusted colleagues and friends. Following their advice, she pursued a dual master’s degree at Bryn Mawr College in social service and law and social policy, and launched her career in corporate philanthropy, which eventually led her to QVC. “Networking is integral to my job, whether I’m interacting at community events, within organizations, or internally with team members,” she says. “I love connecting people; it’s dynamic and exciting.”
Suzanne has relied on her network to identify mentors and role models, share best practices and discover new and better ways to do things. “I was impressed by one of my mentors who would sincerely ask at the end of a meeting, ‘What can we do for you? How can we help?’ I learned to consider how we can all help each other succeed,” she says.She strives to develop that level of trust and transparency with her colleagues. “I want to see my co-workers and my counterparts at other companies do well, because when we all do well, communities and businesses do well.” She was especially appreciative of her network when she was laid off from a downsizing early in her career. “A lot of key people I had relied upon helped me get informational interviews,” she recalls. “Today at QVC, I find myself in the position to be able to do the same thing for them.”
Keeping it Real
When you establish genuine relationships, your network can serve to support your career development at every stage, whether you are looking for a new career, considering a change of career path or expanding your current role.
“Ironically, you have to network most when you don’t need it,” says QVC’s Director of Talent Acquisition & Strategy Jen Ghazzouli, who relied on her network during the early stages of her career. With a degree in chemistry and biochemistry from LaSalle University, Jen started as a forensic chemist for the Philadelphia Police Department. “After one year, I realized it was not the environment I wanted and reached out to my network of friends and colleagues for guidance.”
Jen was able to leverage her science background to move into a scientific recruiting position and a few years later, with the help of another colleague, moved into corporate healthcare recruiting for seven years. She says that her network “proved invaluable once again when one of my former colleagues, who had been talking to QVC about employment but wasn’t willing to relocate, thought that I would be the ideal candidate.” She came on board at QVC as a senior talent acquisition partner and just recently was named director.
“A fundamental part of my recruiting position is networking,” Jen adds. “I am passionate about building, fostering and maintaining relationships, though it’s not always easy. It takes work and time, but the key is, you are giving to get.”
Networking isn’t something that you turn on and off, because you never know whom you will run into and the common ground you may discover. If you are open and honest, strive to make genuine balanced connections, and truly want to help others, building your network will become a source of enjoyment, and it will naturally develop into a valuable lifelong resource.