Building a More Diverse Network

By Kaitlin Hurtado on November 1, 2020

Regardless of whether or not you use networking platforms such as LinkedIn, more often than not, networking is easier said than done. For some, especially those just starting out in their careers, their networks are limited to the company they work at and the university they graduated from. For others, their network has expanded to the multiple companies they’ve worked at and look a little more “impressive” to others. However, for both situations, they may be lacking something vital — diversity.

A network that lacks diversity can only help you so much. When you are surrounded by people so similar to you, whether it be career trajectory or their personal background, you are severely restricting the reach of your network.

“The biggest benefit to a diverse network is the exposure to new ideas,” Chris Gibson, founder and CEO of Wavelength, told Ivy Exec. “People with different backgrounds have novel ways to approach problems that you and your industry may never have considered. These new approaches often lead to industry-changing insights that would never have formed within a uniform network.”

That being said, you may be wondering just how you can start building a more diverse network. Keep reading for tips on how to expand your network with diversity in mind.

Reflect on Your Current Network 

If you are an avid LinkedIn user, you have the opportunity to sift through a bulk of your network to assess your network’s current standing when it comes to diversity. Ivy Exec recommends a quick, easy way to analyze your network.

  1. Click the “Me” icon at the top of your homepage.
  2. Select “Settings & Privacy” from the dropdown menu.
  3. Click the “Privacy” tab located at the top of the page.
  4. Click “Change” next to “Download your Data” underneath the “How LinkedIn uses your data” section.
Following these steps allows you to download an Excel spreadsheet that will give you names, company names, positions, and dates the connections were initially made. You will also be able to assess gender, types of companies/industry, and level of positions.

A quick scroll through your “My Network” page can also help you visually see how diverse your network currently is.

building network with diversity

Photo: Pexels

Go Out of Your Typical “Reach” 

Once you have put in the time to see how diverse your current network, it is time to get to work. At this point, you should consider the previous factors you considered when adding people to your network. Did you limit yourself to those in your exact career field or to others with a similar job description? Were you selective about the companies or educational background of those you added to your background? Did you focus on adding those you aspired to be, whether it be a certain position or working in a certain position?

Looking inward and reflecting on what factors shaped your current network can help you identify why you aren’t seeing the diversity you want, and need, in your network. It can also help you identify any unconscious biases you may hold and work on combatting them in the future.

If you are wondering where to start on adding to your network, don’t just stick to your career field. Find communities on LinkedIn or other social media platforms where you can connect on the basis of shared personal interests, from your hobbies to side gigs. While these people aren’t directly related to your line of work more often than not, it helps introduce individuals from different backgrounds (careers, education, personal) to your network.

You never know the knowledge you will gain from these so-called “random” connections. They may be life lessons, unexpected career tips or life skills, or a new job opportunity from word-of-mouth.

The Muse also recommends looking to your current company for expanding the diversity within your network. While it may feel natural to reach out to coworkers with who you can find instant connections, such as the same alma mater or nearby hometowns.  These behaviors may come naturally but are also often why your network lacks diversity, to begin with. Instead, The Muse recommends networking with employees with who you wouldn’t connect with naturally.

Don’t just gravitate toward those that you can see a bit of yourself in. This can be a new hire or someone you haven’t connected with previously. Hesitant to take initiative? Start with a chat over coffee or lunch, or invite them to a company event. Be genuine and engaging and try to connect often. If you find yourself lack a genuine connection, there’s no harm in reaching out, to begin with — there’s now one more person you can greet by name throughout the office.

You should also consider those close to you — family, friends, and those in your community — to bring into a more professional network.

Whether you are just embarking out on your career path or are established in your professional career, it is never the wrong time to expand your network and make it more diverse.

Rebekah Bastian, CEO & Co-founder of OwnTrail, writes in Forbes, “Being intentional about the diversity of that network will result in better decision making for us as individuals, and more equitable outcomes within our companies.”

By Kaitlin Hurtado

Uloop Writer
Hello! I'm Kaitlin. I studied Literary Journalism and Film & Media Studies at UC Irvine. I'm a writer on Uloop's national team and a campus editor for UCI.

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