I was sitting in front of a classroom of eager college juniors and seniors. I was on a panel of digital professionals talking to the students about potential jobs in the tech industry and how our paths led each of us to where we are now. Each panelist lauded networking as a way to further a career in tech and explained its importance in their own professional journeys.
The students certainly seemed to grasp the value of networking, but they struggled to understand the “how.” But as they asked their questions, a new thought occurred to me–‘networking’ often feels like an ambiguous, awkward exercise in small talk. Our focus should actually be on the more intentional, personal process of building allies.
The ability to build allies may be the most valuable skill in your professional toolbox. Your allies are the trusted people around you who offer their support, assistance, advice, information, protection, and even friendship. They supplement your skills and compensate for your weaknesses with their unique abilities and approaches. They can help you view situations from a different perspective. Your allies are there when you need to work through an idea, be talked off a ledge, or when you need someone to just pause and listen.
But you may be wondering… How do I create allies? Who are they and where do I start? What do I do once I’ve built these relationships? And why is this even important?