Building a strong network to grow your career

Networking can be daunting, and knowing where to start can sometimes be the biggest challenge. Humera Shahid, Intuit’s CDEIO is here with her top tips to help you break the ice and maximize every career conversation.

Networking plays a crucial role in any career journey, but sometimes it’s hard to know where to start and how to get the most out of every interaction.

Recently, Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer (CDEIO) and VP of Talent Development at Intuit, Humera Shahid, sat down with Toronto Intuit employees to chat about all things networking and how to use it to grow your career.

Humera brings over 20 years of experience in the talent field with a background that covers a broad range of talent‐focused disciplines. Her passion lies in looking at diverse experiences, supporting organizational DEI goals, and enabling individuals to learn new skills to do the best work of their lives.

Here are Humera’s top 5 networking tips for building a strong network to grow your career: 

#1: Just say yes—you never know where it may lead you.

If someone reaches out to you for a coffee chat, or a mutual friend wants to connect you with a colleague—just say yes—you have nothing to lose. Taking the time to explore different connection opportunities opens up the possibility of developing new professional relationships, and maybe even lifelong friendships. You never know where a quick, 30-minute conversation can lead you. 

#2: Remember your day ones.

It’s great to branch out and establish new connections, but don’t forget to leverage the relationships you’ve already created. It’s not always about going to events and meeting new people, but reaching out to your existing network—people you may have met through a parent group or family event. Connections you’ve made back in the day could come in handy later in your career, so it’s important to nurture those relationships beyond the first meeting.

#3: Make time for it. 

To be good at anything, you need to actively set aside time to practice. Networking is no different. Perhaps you make a personal goal of having one chat a month with somebody internally or externally, or look into attending one conference a year, if that is within your budget. Networking is a trainable muscle if you invest time into developing it. 

#4: Don’t underestimate the power of internal networking.

Internal networking is a great place to start and is a lower barrier to entry. If there’s someone you want to learn from within your organization, just reach out—again, you have nothing to lose. Hesitant to make a cold call? Get someone to introduce you. People rarely say no to a career conversation. Remember, we all came from another company at some point, so by reaching out to internal connections, other doors may open for you.

#5: Go in with a learning mindset.

Breaking the ice is often the hardest part of networking. How do you start a conversation confidently without it feeling forced? I find going in with a learning mindset helps. Ask yourself: What do I want to learn from this experience today? Then open the same question up to those around you to kickstart the conversation. By focusing on what you want to learn, it’ll push you to talk to people. 

No matter where you’re at in your career, networking is a lifelong skill that everyone should prioritize and keep handy in their toolbox. It may feel intimidating at times, but remember as humans, we naturally crave connection; it’s a part of who we are. Embrace the discomfort, make the first move, and with time, it’ll get easier.