Establishing, Maintaining, and Finding Real Connection in an Increasingly Virtual World

Building Your Product Career, Growing with Community, Posts

By: Charis Loveland, Global Program Manager, EPIC Emotional Intelligence, Amazon

When pursuing your dream career, the first thing to consider is your unique value proposition. What do you bring to the table that few others do? 

In my case, I excel in communication and explaining complex technical topics from any perspective. If you don’t yet have a clear elevator pitch of what you excel at, I suggest asking your peers and colleagues for suggestions. Take the descriptions that resonate best with you and work on defining your ideal vision for your career. It’s also worth considering if you are fulfilled in your current role. In each role I’ve taken from my early 20s, I have considered the tasks I like to do most in the position. When considering taking a job change, I look at the job description to see if I’ll be doing more of the tasks I like and fewer of those I don’t. This relatively simple rubric has led me to a deep career progression. For instance, during my MBA, I realized I wanted to pursue more customer-facing roles, which led me to seek product management opportunities. While working in AI, I realized how fundamental my emotional intelligence (EQ) skills have been to my career success, so I pivoted to a role leading a global EQ program.

Once you have a goal job in mind, ensure your experience and network will lead you in the right direction. Roughly half of the jobs I’ve held have been through connections in my network. Of course, you still have to pass the interview process, but maintaining a robust professional network using LinkedIn is a critical part of pursuing your dream career. Networking is an excellent way to get the experience you’ll need on the path to your ideal job. 

We hear a lot about networking but rarely do folks break down how, when, and why to do it. The why is obvious, but here it is, louder for the folks in the back: to get closer to your dream role and fill your life with awesome, inspirational people. The when is often, at least weekly. The rest of it, the how, is the focus of this article.

Networking is a skill that I’ve grown over time, including building a LinkedIn network of over 6,000 people. I love to teach people how to optimize their LinkedIn skills, as I have learned a lot from amazing colleagues who’ve inspired me to grow my network.

Let’s start with your profile. First, is it complete and in chronological order? Are there college coursework or projects you can add to round out your experience? How about volunteer projects, training, and awards? Make sure your resume is also updated with your job history. I like to add skills to both my LinkedIn and resume on a quarterly basis. This not only makes the process less tedious, but also it’s up to date if you are unexpectedly on the job market.

How is your LinkedIn posting game? It’s important to keep up with sharing posts from your teammates and company, as well as any events you’re attending. Engaging with your LinkedIn feed to congratulate connections pursuing a new opportunity is a great way to keep in touch with people from your network and even to meet new connections. Plus, as a form of social media, you can really benefit from the endorphins that accompany engagement with others on a shared topic of interest. Whenever you speak at an event, record a podcast, receive a badge from a completed course, or attend a cool conference, these are all posting opportunities. They can even be simple or recall a prior event, like in this recent post.

When you come to LinkedIn with a specific ask, let’s say as you’re job searching, my best advice is to make it as easy as possible for the person you’re asking to say yes. For example, here’s a message I received from an alumni of my undergraduate university, Bates.

You can see here that Christina established a common connection through our alma mater Bates and made a specific ask. You can even propose a couple of times and offer to send the person a calendar invitation if they provide their email. The more legwork you do on their behalf, the better, and this improves your chances of getting a positive response. People genuinely do want to help others succeed in their careers. 

Another LinkedIn tip I’d like to share is in the scenario where you want to reach out to a second degree connection, let’s say to get an internal referral for a job. In this case, you can actually offer an email example of what you’d like your connection to send to that person. That way, all you’re asking of your connection is to copy and paste a message you’ve written to get that referral. Find the second degree connection you want to talk to in their network, and send a message ready to go with that second contact’s information, in their voice, and invite them to edit anything they want. It may look something like this.

Hi Robert, How’s life? I just talked to a Bates grad, Amy Jones, about an open product management role at your company. Here’s the URL, Amy’s LinkedIn profile, and her resume is attached. If possible, would you mind referring her, please? Thanks for considering, and I wish you a wonderful summer! Best, Charis

If you’re reading this and shuddering, I understand that a lot of shy people don’t take to networking, or generally asking other people for help. If this sounds like you, try taking small steps. Build up your network of people you know in real life and start asking them for small favors. This will go a long way toward building your confidence for networking with strangers. Please don’t take a non-reply as a rejection. Maybe the person missed your message, or maybe they are currently swamped. We all have LinkedIn accounts that get bombarded with sales pitchy messages for training or franchises, so sometimes people miss the actual messages in between. Keep at it, and take any feedback seriously, but not personally. And remember, make it as easy as possible for the person you’re asking to say yes. 

Whenever you go to an event, take an online class, or even at the gym, make it a habit to add people to your LinkedIn network. This is your professional capital and a way to stay connected to the world at large. You never know when someone might be able to help you or a friend land a job, or when you might be able to assist them.

Another way to be a good connection is to check in sometimes with no agenda, just to ask how someone is doing. There’s no time like the present! Do it now, and set up a recurring time on your calendar for LinkedIn messaging.

While it becomes more of a challenge in the virtual world to grow and maintain your connections, it’s possible and can even be fun. Why not set a goal to grow your LinkedIn followers by engaging with folks in Women in Product? Make sure you set a number of connections, e.g., adding 10 per month, to make it a SMART goal (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound).

Be patient with yourself. It can be difficult to implement a new habit. Before you know it, your networking habits will be part of your daily routine and you’ll look forward to keeping up with colleagues from all parts of your life. Reading about other colleagues’ accomplishments can inspire you to reach new peaks in your career.

I can’t end this article without underscoring the upside of you giving back to your network. I find that on a day when I have a spontaneous or planned mentoring meeting where I’m sharing my experience, I am often in a better mood. It truly feels good to have the expertise to assist someone else on their journey. Staying connected to your peers offers a proven mood booster in addition to the benefits to your career. Start by adding yours truly to your network! 

About the author

Charis Loveland's Headshot

Charis Loveland

Charis Loveland is the global program manager for the EPIC emotional intelligence program at Amazon. Before joining Amazon, Charis worked independently in AI product strategy and taught data science for MIT, Columbia, and Dartmouth, as well as product management, agile, metrics, and communication for General Assembly. Charis lives in the New Hampshire woods with her 14-year-old daughter and 2 cats.