Asking Your Boss For Help With Networking

How to Get Networking Help From Your Boss | CorporetteIf you’re new in the field, should you expect your boss to introduce you to her contacts and take you to networking events? How can you ask her to start helping you network? Reader S wonders…

I’m new in my career in a small office and my boss is well established in our field. She has wonderful contacts and is a member of many associations and groups. I had hoped my boss would take me under her wing a little and be a great mentor as I learn the ropes. Unfortunately, I have not be invited to join her at any of these events. Is it appropriate to ask to be introduced to her network and to accompany her to events? I don’t want her to feel threatened that I’m looking for better opportunities, but I think it’s important to get to know the industry players as well.

Great question, S!  We’ve talked about how to network when you’re junior, how to get networking help from an adjunct professor, how to network at a conference, and how to know which networking organizations to join, but we haven’t talked about this before.

I’ve been fortunate to have several bosses who did take me under their wings and introduce me to people, set up lunches for me or including me, and even suggest which networking events were “worth” going to or not. A boss like that is gold. That said, every single time I was included, or that my boss helped me network, I felt completely honored and grateful — I never expected it. I’m curious to hear what the readers say here, but for my $.02 Reader S, new in her career, may want to reset her expectations from “the default is my boss will help me” to “the default is I have to help myself.”

That said, how can Reader S express her desires to network more with the boss’s network? This depends heavily on her field, as well as which events require money (conferences can be expensive; so can air fare) as well as, to a certain extent, the particular personalities involved at each event. A few thoughts for Reader S:

  • Ask your boss which associations and groups she’s found most helpful in the field, and then join them yourself. Ask her which committees within the associations are best (there may be a pecking order and you may have to join a lesser committee to work you way up to a better committee), and even who you should talk to at the next meeting. Even if she’ll be at the meeting herself, assume that you are going and leaving by yourself, as well as that you’ll be networking by yourself at the meeting.
  • If she does invite you to an event, remember your place — your goal is to reflect well on her, and your hope is that MAYBE someone will remember your name or face the next time you see them. I know it sounds crazy, but I’ve been to events like this with people and heard them complain about numerous things, go on about other places they could have been, or even joke about the person who invited them.
  •  If your job requires outreach of some sort — to clients, to members, to other branches within the same company — ask her for 15 minutes to pick her brain about who you should invite for breakfast or lunch meetings to get to know on a face to face basis. I would think it would be presumed that you can drop her name in your email (“I’m new here, and Anne Jones suggested you’d be a great person to get to know better — may I take you to breakfast sometime next week?”) but you may want to check with her.
  • If there is a huge networking event, such as a conference that costs money to attend, offer to pay some part of it yourself instead of expecting the company to pay it for you. For example, offer to pay airfare and lodging yourself, but ask if the company could buy you a ticket to the conference.

This can take a LONG time to get people to know your name or even your face, and longer still before people start looking to you as a player / resource.

Readers, what has your experience been with bosses helping you network?  If you are a boss, how do you view requests from subordinates for networking help? 

Photo: wavebreakmedia/Shutterstock.

Comments

  1. Ask your boss how she describes her work/your firm to people agree meets, u.e. the dreaded elevator speech. Do some research: which events look interesting to you?
    Definitely echo the advice to switch your expectation from “she automatically helps me” to “show my interest through my actions”

  2. Also, split your focus on creating your own network (80%) and leveraging your boss’ s netwirk (20%). As a junior staff, creating relationships with other young professionals that you click with because of similar values, personalities, interests and goals will pay off in the long term.

  3. Famouscait :

    Ask your boss for specific introductions if there’s someone they know but you don’t (and should). For example, my new boss is good personal friends with the immediate past president of the University. It had never occurred to my boss that I didn’t know Past Pres. (because, hey! everybody knows Bob) and he took the next opportunity to introduce us.

    I also think this helped my boss see other opportunities that I was unaware of – i.e. people I didn’t even know I should know. So more introductions have flowed from that organically.

  4. I think asking about which associations are actually worthwhile is key – there are so many out there. I find getting involved on a board or committee of a few good ones is a great way to meet people, so that when you do go to these events, you have some familiar faces. The committees generally love having a few younger people because they tend to have time to actually do the work, as opposed to the senior people who are on the committee because of their name, but don’t have any time. The easiest way to network at events is to go up to the people you know and then they start introducing you to others. So much better than when you go to an event and don’t know anyone.

  5. Don’t be afraid to ask a boss to make introductions for you. Sure, some lawyers are fiercely territorial with clients/contacts and will refuse or ignore your request, but you should be able to figure out who they are pretty quickly. The rest of them will probably appreciate your initiative.

  6. wildkitten :

    What associations and groups do you R3tt3s find most useful? I feel like in DC a lot of groups are geared towards new college graduates, and it’s harder to find groups that continue to be beneficial throughout my career.

    • I’m a big law, transactional attorney with my practice primarily focused on one or two industries. I find that industry groups that my clients (or potential clients) are part of are way more useful than legal groups such as bar associations.

  7. My answer to OP’s question ‘is it appropriate to ask to be introduced to my boss’s network?’ is ‘not really’ although I do like all the constructive suggestions others have provided on how to indicate interest in general how-to of networking and to ask for specifics to which an even moderately helpful boss can readily acquiesce.

    I would also suggest OP sets herself the task of watching and learning how her boss acquires and maintains her contacts. My own ‘tool kit’ in this regard includes many tricks picked up from various smooth-talking bosses and peers, adapted to fit my own rather restrained personal style, and which have been rather more useful over the years than the mere act of introduction.

    • I think it’s perfectly appropriate to say to your new boss, “I’m interested in organization X or industry Y and would love to come to an event with you,” as opposed to, “Please introduce me to the following people in your network.” She may appreciate your initiative.

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