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Your Most Important Asset
Your professional network is your most important asset. While it’s free to build, it takes time and effort.
At this point everyone in tech knows how tough it is out there for job seekers. Right now open roles at good companies receive hundreds of applicants within a couple of days (particularly remote roles).
Layoffs have been significant and will continue to happen as unfundable startups continue to run out of money.
Hiring freezes persist and every net new headcount is heavily scrutinized.
New headcount that wasn’t in this year’s approved budget is not being added —unless the company is crushing their sales forecast (hint: most are not).
Existing budgeted headcount is being delayed and heavily scrutinized. If sales targets are being missed (or barely met) then CFOs are pushing/freezing hiring for those roles as well.
The fundraising market continues to be slow (unless you are a hot generative AI company).
Job Stability Anxiety
I’ve had conversations with several people about this over the past few weeks. Anxiety about people’s careers and job stability is at all time highs.
What will artificial intelligence do to my career? Hear this constantly from accountants and finance folks early in their career.
Is my company going to do layoffs soon? Lots of people are questioning if startups are worth the risk anymore.
Why has my career progression halted? It’s a lot harder to get promoted when the company is doing layoffs and hiring freezes. People are feeling stuck because in the old world they got promoted every 12-18 months, but that is NOT normal (there are lots of inflated titles out there).
Feeling burnt out because my company can’t hire people (and we just did a big layoff) and I am working a ton. Feeling stuck with no better options can be discouraging.
I am remote but now a bunch of VCs are saying the best outcomes will come from in-office companies. Will I have to move? Am I at greater risk of being laid off compared to my colleagues who live near an office?
“Anxiety’s like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but it doesn’t get you very far.”
— Jodi Picoult, “Sing You Home”
So what can you do?
Power of Network Capital
Your professional network is similar long-term stock investing: You can’t time the market but rather you should invest through every cycle.
If you wait to build your network until you need something then it’s too late. You should be building it throughout your career — don’t wait until you think you have more to offer and don’t stop when you are at the “top” of your career.
If I was part of a layoff then I would want to immediately message my network and let them know and ask if they know of any opportunities. I can’t do that unless I have built a strong relationships ahead of time.
Imagine being asked by someone you have not seen in 5 years if you know of any opportunities that they would be a fit for. Now imagine the same question but for someone you have built and maintained a professional relationship with over many years…I know who I am going to try harder to help.
Building Your Network Capital
The best time to grow your network is early, the next best time is today. Below are some things I would recommend doing:
Give more than your receive —be a mentor, take the phone calls, help people find jobs, offer help, etc. Sounds easy but people find excuses why they are too busy.
Your current/former co-workers are often your best resources. Don’t let these relationships die after you change jobs. I have quarterly catch ups with several mentors, peers, and mentees.
Get breakfast/lunch with colleagues, mentors, and others you want in your network. Rule here is if you invite them then you pay, but it’s worth it to build your network 😁.
Join and be active in industry professional networks. Some of these network groups are much more valuable than others so chose wisely where to spend your time. You get the most value from these groups by being an active participant and volunteering for positions if applicable. A few finance networks I have gotten value from:
Have a life outside of work and have hobbies. Sorry, but if all you talk about is work then I probably don’t want to hang out with you outside of work. Yes, I know it’s a “professional” network but I still want to enjoy being around you.
Leave a comment for other things you have found valuable in building your network!
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