There’s a lot of value in networking with someone higher up the ranks, but there’s just as much to be said for cultivating relationships with your peers.
Fostering connections with people your own age, sometimes called “horizontal networking,” can be just as beneficial. Becoming friendly with people who are at the same career stage you are can be helpful now and down the road. You never know who might become influential in a few years time.
Here are a few reasons to include peer networking in your career advancement strategy and some ways to get started today.
1. Peer networking is good practice.
Talking to your coworkers and friends is an opportunity to practice how you want to present yourself to others. Networking doesn’t come naturally to everyone, and practicing on your peers is a great way to find your personal networking style. It is a lot easier to chat to people who are at your level or in the same position you are, especially if you already know them. One way to meet peers in different departments is to check for volunteer events in your office. They can put you in touch with people outside of your division and open you up to a whole new circle.
Chatting with your peers is also good practice for talking to higher-ups and people you don’t know, which require a little more finesse. Start with a few opening lines. Ask a few questions. Describe a recent accomplishment. Talk about what you’re looking for in your next role, especially if you’re looking for new job opportunities. It’s always a good idea to plant the seed because you never know when a position might pop up.
2. You’ll find someone who can empathize with you.
Meeting someone with the same amount of experience as you is a great way to share experiences and work challenges in a way that can feel impossible to do with someone in a more senior position.
Someone higher up the ranks might not be able to fully appreciate the struggles you’re facing or where you’re at in your career. A lot of sectors, such as tech or the media, change quickly. That means that an individual much older than you probably won’t understand industry-specific challenges. But by networking with someone on your level, it becomes a lot easier to find the support you need in your day-to-day job. If you’re facing a roadblock, there’s a pretty good chance that your peers have, too.
3. You might befriend someone who can help you out later.
Who knows where you’ll be or where your friends will be in a year or five years from now?
One of the most crucial reasons to network with your peers is that there is a good chance that they might be in charge one day or be in a position to help you. By getting to know them now, you’ll set the groundwork for promising opportunities that could come down the pike. When they become influential, you’ll thank yourself for making the effort before anyone else did. Plus, they’ll likely make time for you since they knew you in advance.
4. You might also befriend someone who can help you today.
Your peers can give you crucial information about job opportunities. By simply having a larger network, you’re opening the realm of possibility. The more people who know you, the more interaction you will have and the more recommendations you will get.
Your alumni network is a great place to network with your peers. Someone who went to the same school as you and knows the same people and professors you do will be more likely to lend you a hand than if they were getting approached by someone not in their network. In addition, alumni organizations usually hold social events, which are built-in opportunities for connecting with people from your class.
Your peers can also provide valuable information about companies. Maybe they know someone who worked somewhere you’re considering working at. Maybe they have insider information on work-life balance or salary. The great thing about having networking contacts on the same level as you is that they can give you valuable information that someone older or more experienced might not know.
5. It’s easy.
When you network with your peers, you’re probably doing it without even realizing it. Networking can feel like a lot of work when you’re chatting with new contacts or trying to impress someone higher up than you. It can also be time-consuming and expensive — all those happy hours and dinners can quickly add up.
But you can accomplish a lot for less when you connect with peers who you already know. You’d be surprised how far ahead you can get sharing a lunch in your office cafeteria or stopping by your local coffee shop together.
If you’re looking to grow your network, consider being a mentor or being mentored with Everwise. Learn more here.