Learn how to network like the whole world is watching in the third post of our three-part series on career change.

Udacity - Networking with your Network - Career Change

In our two previous posts, we’ve discussed three key principles related to the process of career change. We’ve explored “Walking the Walk” and “Talking the Talk,” and today, we’ll look at our third principle: “Networking with your Network.”

We’ve had two wonderful Udacity alums joining us for our conversations on these topics: Jamaal Davis, a graduate of our Digital Marketing Nanodegree program, and two-time Nanodegree program graduate Xi Palazzolo. To get started on today’s third principle, we’ll turn to Xi for a perfect opening statement:

I love using LinkedIn, and when I felt that I was ready to make my next move, I reached out to a lot of my LinkedIn contacts to ask them, “What kind of skill set do you think is important for someone to succeed, or excel, in this position?”

Now, let’s take this process one step at a time.

To network, you need a network

This may seem self-evident, but there’s more to the statement than meets the eye. In our first post, we discussed that classic job search Catch-22: “I need experience to get a job, but I need a job to get experience.” This is not a dissimilar problem. I need connections to build a network, but without a network, I have no connections. So what’s the solution? Simple. It starts with one. One person. Once you connect with one person, their world is your world, and your world is their world. That’s why we call it “connecting.”

Network like the whole world is watching

Have you heard this quote before?

“Whenever you do a thing, act as if all the world were watching.”

It’s attributed to Thomas Jefferson, and it’s sage advice for how to network well. The main thing to understand is that—until it isn’t—networking is a one-way street that leads away from you.  Put another way, you need to build your network through trying to help other people, not yourself. That’s what we mean about the whole world watching. Whether anyone’s paying attention to you or not, you need to be doing the right thing, and that means helping others.

Jamaal Davis is a perfect example of this. The most effective connections in his working life were built through his volunteer efforts.

If I see a company or organization that’s doing something that I’m interested in, I will reach out to them and see if I can volunteer. Then I get the opportunity to meet all these great project managers, all these companies that are actually hiring. You can go to Eventbrite, go to meetup.com, and also post on social media and just ask, “Hey, are there any events happening around here?” Join those groups, and once you go, you’ll actually work, and actually participate, and you’ll show these people that you’re just excited to be around them, and that you want to learn about them, and you want to learn about how they get to where they are. People will help you.

Jamaal’s heart is in exactly the place it should be with this approach. He’s thinking, how can I contribute? How can I express my support for, and interest in, what this community is doing?

Work it

There will come a time when you’ll have to tap your network. When you’ll have to ask something of it. That’s when the one-way street does a U-turn and points your way. When that time comes, don’t be shy. Work it. But do so authentically. Be genuine. As Xi points out, asking someone for advice, if you do it right, is a compliment to them.

People I knew that were holding the job title that I’m interested in, I connected with them and I sent them a LinkedIn message that said, “Hey, thank you for connecting with me. I am really interested in working in the data science field and I saw that you are working in this company as a data analyst or data scientist and I’m curious if I can ask you several questions over the phone?” If they’re nice enough to respond to your message the first time, then I think they will give you advice as to how you should prepare and what you should do. Don’t be embarrassed just because you are asking a question. People will often take it as a compliment when you ask them, “How can I be a successful data analyst like you?” Be sure to just ask in a genuine way, and I’m sure a lot of people will be very generous about sharing their experience and advice with you.

Walk it, Talk It, Work it

As we conclude our three-post series on career change, let’s summarize what we’ve learned.

  • Walking the walk. It’s not enough to have the skills. You have to use them. And you have to have used them before you start your next job search. Because you need to have proof at the ready of your skills and experience.
  • Talking the talk. To succeed, you need to undergo a mindset transformation. You need to go from “I want to be a data scientist” to “I am a data scientist.”
  • Networking with your Network. Build it by contributing to it. Do the right thing, and help. Nurture it. Develop a reputation for being interested, engaged, supportive. Do so authentically, with genuine intentions. Then, when the time comes, ask for what you want. Don’t be shy. Just be real.

As we bid farewell to this series, we say a special thank you to Jamaal Davis and Xi Palazzolo for their generosity, and for sharing their insights and experience!

Career success is what Udacity is all about. We’re here to help, and our alumni are here to help, too. So if you’re ready to launch, advance, or change a career, then consider this your invitation to join us!