In business, we are trained to network. You have learned to network with influencers, network with movers and shakers, and network with those in the know. That’s all good advice. But, sometimes what’s left out is the importance of networking with your peers. Your peers are people at about the same level of education and experience as you that are in the same field of work as you are. However, often they have different experiences. It’s those differences that will help you get further in your career than you might think.
The reason you’ll get the best advice and support from your peers is that:
* Similarity Breeds Trust – You’re going to have a lot more in common with peers than people much further along or not as far along as you in your career. Due to these shared factors you’ll feel more trusting and be able to open up to each other more.
* Collective Experience Goes Far – Even if you’re on the same education level and career level as your peers, you still have varied experiences that can be shared and learned from. You each have still been exposed to different software, for example, and can help each other discover new avenues and tools that you couldn’t learn from someone at a different level.
* You Will Increase Exposure to Who They Know (and Vice Versa) – There’s something to be said about increasing your networks with your peers by learning who they know, and sharing with them who you know. This can be very useful when trying to get a job or contract with a particular company. A peer recommending you means quite a bit to the hiring authorities, more than a recruiter’s word.
* You’ll Be Exposed to the Latest Thinking in Your Niche – You can’t read everything or know everything, and neither can your peers. But, if you are all reading and learning and connecting, the shared knowledge can add up to increased understanding and breakthroughs in your niche.
In order to build a network of peers:
* Search for Them on Social Media – Want a particular job title, or to add a particular service to your offerings to clients? Search for the people who are doing whatever it is that you want to do on social media. Find them, follow them, connect with them and converse with them so that you can become part of their social circles.
* Start Discussions with Them – Ask leading questions that get more than yes or no answers, and answer questions with more than a yes or no. If you’re part of a group of professionals who do what you do, participate fully in discussions and advice.
* Go to Niche-Focused Events – Don’t forget live events, and webinars. You can learn a lot if you’re in a room full of people who do what you do. Remember that even if you’re in the same niche, you may not do things exactly the same or with the same tools. You can learn a lot about what’s coming in terms of trends or what’s popular and up and coming in the niche if you stay informed with and by your peers.
* Share Resources Freely – Don’t be afraid of competition; share your resources and contacts freely as the information is needed and comes up. Of course, you want to be sure you know someone well enough before recommending them for a position or contract, but you don’t want to be afraid to spread the word about a peer who is awesome. They will do the same for you someday.
It might seem counterproductive to network with and get advice and support from your competition, but that can often be where you will find the best advice as well as support. After all, they understand you better than anyone else. Plus, it’s often easier to learn from someone who is closer to your own level in education when they know something a little different from you.