How to Network Fearlessly and Grow Your Career
“I hate networking.”
Does that sentiment resonate with you?
Maybe you get sweaty palms, butterflies in your stomach, or other fight-or-flight responses at the very thought of schmoozing to land a job.
There are many reasons people don’t like the notion of networking. But what if instead of using that dreaded 10-letter word, we thought about it as human connection. You know, simply growing together and sharing ideas?
Bunmi Akintomide, Systems Specialists Manager at Salesforce, is a master human connector. A native of Nigeria and lover of all things tech, Bunmi recognizes that as a team we can do incredible things in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
“I came from a country where technology wasn’t the greatest. I’ve seen what life’s like without it, and because of that I can also see the possibilities of what we can create — together.”
His passion for joining forces with others has bolstered his transition into four roles in four years at Salesforce. He’s even made a leap from the Customer Success Group (CSG) to Business Technology (BT)!
To help us all start networking courageously, Bunmi shares his tips for building meaningful relationships.
1. DREAM UP AND ACT ON PERSONAL GOALS
Where would you like to be next year? Two years from now? And what have you done today to reach those goals?
Bunmi would encourage you to live intentionally. Manifest a future of abundance by thinking about and moving toward the vision you have for yourself. Bunmi shares this example in How to Network Like A Pro:
“If I wanted to know about real estate investment, I would attend a real estate conference and speak with investors. I’d inquire about how they perform their job and schedule a follow-up meeting to learn more.”
The same rule applies to both entrepreneurship and your career. Identify your goals and take purposeful steps towards them.
[Related: How to Re-write Your Career in Tech]
2. DISCUSS YOUR CAREER PATH WITH YOUR MANAGER
“What has helped me advance so quickly is the ability to be the driver of my own career. Networking and career conversations with my managers were very critical in my career progression. I always made sure to communicate with my manager during our one-on-ones about my career path.”
Today, as a people manager himself, Bunmi realizes the importance of supporting personal growth. He’s borrowed best practices from prior managers and incorporated them in his own management style.
“No matter where my employees want to go, I want to support them and be a partner. Whether it’s helping them develop new skills, or just setting up a job shadow.”
A manager who’s aware of your personal and professional goals can leverage their own network to help you reach them.
3. START A CONVERSATION WITH SOMEONE NEW
Admittedly, this can be one of the most uncomfortable things for people. Bunmi has great advice to overcome apprehension when talking to someone new.
“Find something you have in common and start a conversation. If you’re in the same location, ask them if they’re originally from here. That simple question opens the door to learn about their unique background.”
4. EXPAND YOUR NETWORK THROUGH FUN
Connecting with people can — and should — be fun! You can charge your batteries and build relationships at the same time.
“I play basketball every Wednesday morning with other employees. That’s actually how I learned about my first role in BT. People outside of my day-to-day knew what I was interested in. The role found me.”
If that wasn’t plenty to keep him busy, he’s been a mentor of Big Brothers, Big Sisters (BBBS) for two years. BBBS helps children realize their potential and build their futures through positive one-to-one relationships.
“I’m really passionate about the program. I spend a minimum of four hours with my little every month. We’re paired up based on similar interests, so we go to the park, hang out with my dog, run around, and play basketball.”
Bunmi’s passion for mentoring has also introduced him to others in the community who change lives through BBBS.
5. DIVERSIFY YOUR NETWORK
The midwest of the U.S. isn’t as diverse as big coastal cities like New York or San Francisco. Bunmi quickly realized the opportunity to improve inclusivity and diversity within the Indianapolis community, and founded the Indy Black Millennials (IBM) networking group.
“The idea is to get professionals together from different companies so they can network, meet someone new, and share ideas. When you have people in a room who look like you, it makes it a little easier,” he reflected.
“Working at Salesforce, many people wanted to connect with me. If I didn’t work here, I would probably never would have recognized this need. It has definitely helped me a lot.”
Salesforce also has Equality Groups, which are employee-led and employee-organized groups focused on building community and empowering our underrepresented communities. They also invite in allies to join and help champion Equality by asking, listening, showing up, and speaking up.
Bunmi serves as the Membership & Community Lead for our Black Organization for Leadership and Development — also known as BOLDforce — in Indy. “Joining the board on BOLDforce really helped me a lot. I was able to really get connected to my community and see how I can make an impact in Indy.”
To discover Equality events near you, reach out to or follow on social your local community centers, colleges and universities, or thought leader forums.
With Bunmi’s golden nuggets of wisdom, you’ll be a master networker yourself in no time! And while building relationships can help tremendously in landing your next role, he’d recommend taking time to hone new skills as well.
“Before I became a people manager, I leveraged Trailhead to learn how to do that effectively. It’s a great development resource.”
Finally, Bunmi shared that you’ll know you’re ready for your next role when you’re crushing your current position and itching for a challenge. If that’s you, check out our open roles at Salesforce and apply today!