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Networking: unlocking new professional opportunities for career development

by Sasha Druzhinin , 05.07.2023

As I navigate the technology industry and look to make my mark, it’s crucial to have a network that can help me navigate challenges and learn from experiences. In this industry, women like me face a disproportionate amount of obstacles, which makes it all the more important for me to have a strong support system.

Networking has become a business buzzword, but it is crucial for my success and career development. It is a valuable tool that can unlock opportunities, including the chance to connect with role models and mentors who can help me progress and thrive in my career.

Professional networking can benefit everyone in various ways. It can give us access to new opportunities, help us find advocates and mentors who can support our career growth, build our confidence, and provide a sense of validation and community. It provides the opportunity to connect with like-minded professionals, exchange ideas, and gain new perspectives. Networking can be a challenge for many of us to navigate at first, but with practice, it can become a valuable skill that can unlock countless opportunities.

Here are some of my top tips for getting started:

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

I know that asking for help can be intimidating, but it's important to remember that everyone starts somewhere. The person you're asking for help was once in your position, and they can provide invaluable insight and guidance.

When asking for help, I always aim to be clear about what I am hoping to gain from the relationship and I try not to ask for too much too soon. Building a relationship takes time, so I look to focus on getting to know the person and establishing trust before I expect anything in return.

With this, I've found it is just as important to follow up with new connections. After every conversation, I connect with people on LinkedIn and send a quick message to recap our conversation and establish a line of communication. This makes it easier to follow up in the future and stay in touch as your careers progress.

In the technology industry, women are often underrepresented and may face challenges such as gender bias, lack of mentors, and unequal pay. However, networking can be a powerful tool for overcoming these challenges and creating a support system to help women succeed.

One useful way to build a network is to attend industry events, conferences, and meetups. These events provide an opportunity to connect with others in the field, learn about new developments, and build relationships.


Plan ahead to show your best self

To make the most of networking opportunities, it's important to plan ahead. I have always found that before attending an event or meeting, making a list of your goals and what you hope to get out of the experience helps massively. It's important to research who will be attending the event and see if there are any obvious connections to be made. By preparing ahead of time, you'll feel more confident and ready to speak to the right people.

It’s equally important to remember networking isn't just about what you can get out of it. It's a two-way street, and I always try to consider what I can bring to the table as well. For me, using my LinkedIn profile is a great way to showcase my skills to new connections.

LinkedIn is one of the most powerful tools for networking. Your LinkedIn profile is often the first impression you make on potential contacts, so make sure it's up-to-date and complete. Your profile should include a professional headshot, a summary of your experience, and a list of your skills. Be sure to also ask colleagues and supervisors for recommendations and endorsements to highlight your strengths and expertise.


Don’t let fear hold your career development back

Another way I try to build my network is by seeking out mentorship opportunities. Finding a mentor who has experience in the technology industry provides invaluable guidance and advice for navigating challenges and achieving career goals, particularly for people like me in the early stages of their careers.

Mentorship is an invaluable tool for career development. I know it is so important to find a mentor who can provide guidance, feedback, and support. This can be a game-changer in terms of career growth and advancement. While it can be intimidating to ask someone to be your mentor, it's important to remember that most successful people have had mentors themselves and are usually more than willing to help others. Don't let fear hold you back from putting yourself out there and seeking a mentor.

Networking is a great way to find a mentor and, once you've identified a potential mentor, don't be afraid to ask for their guidance and support. It's important to remember that mentorship is a two-way street, I know I have been able to offer my mentor some valuable insights too! By being open and honest about your goals and aspirations, you can build a strong relationship that benefits both parties.

I know networking can be a daunting task, but it's important not to let fear hold you back from putting yourself out there. Remember that everyone has to start somewhere; the more you practice, the more comfortable you'll become. For me, practice really makes perfect. Be authentic, listen actively, and focus on building meaningful connections.

GfK has given me a inclusive and supportive work environment where I have access to mentorship programs and women's networks to help with my development, and definitely help with my networking skills. It is so reassuring to be part of a tech company that prioritizes support and resources to help everyone succeed, particularly for women who experience a number of challenges in their career.

If you are looking for a company that values diversity, inclusivity, and career development, I encourage you to explore our open roles and consider applying to join our team. GfK believes that a strong network and supportive community can make all the difference in your career, and are committed to providing employees with the resources and opportunities they need to succeed.


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