One of the best things I’ve done in my career is focus on horizontal networking (another way to describe it is lateral networking).

Horizontal networking means networking with people on a similar level to you, not people who are far more senior or experienced in their careers. It might not be the approach that first comes to mind, but it has been extremely valuable throughout my career.

I’ve talked about this concept a lot over the years, either on MakeWorkWork or in interviews, and if you have career goals you’ve set for this year, I’d highly recommend you consider implementing some horizontal networking into your plan. Let’s get into how to do that.

Why horizontal networking is worth it

Here’s the thing about horizontal networking — when you network with people who are at the same or a similar level to you, you have a lot more to offer each other. Sure, when you are connecting with folks who are more senior than you, you still likely have things to offer each other. For example, maybe you can connect them with others for hiring or add perspective from your experience, but the more senior person might naturally have a lot more to offer you because they are further along in their career and have gathered a lot more knowledge and insights. That imbalance, and the fact that folks who are more senior tend to have less available time, means that it’s sometimes more difficult to network with folks who are more senior than you.

Horizontal networking is an easier approach to networking because you’re networking with people who are at the same level as you; you have a ton more to offer each other. You might be going through promotion conversations at the same time, dealing with the same problems at work, or just generally being able to relate to each other’s challenges much more.

The biggest advantage to horizontal networking, though, is that if you network with people at your own level, over time, as you all become more senior, you have an incredible group around you that you’ve grown with over the years. You all advance together, and now you have a network of peers who are similarly senior to you in your career.

How horizontal networking has been powerful for me

I started focusing on horizontal networking while I was still at University. I connected with fellow classmates, went to networking events, and got the information of others who were still entry-level. Of course, I also was in touch with folks who were more senior than me, but I really didn’t have a lot I could reach out to them with other than my resume. For people who were all job hunting and entering the workforce together after University, we started reviewing each other’s resumes, editing LinkedIn profiles, and generally sharing opportunities and where we found them.

As I moved through my career, it was similarly beneficial to keep connecting with folks who were in similar roles to me and had a similar level of seniority. I had connections walk me through promotion conversations they had had and how those had gone. One colleague and I, who were both junior at a startup, shared our salaries with each other, and it led to me discovering how underpaid I was.

And now, even though I’ve grown quite a bit in my career and my work is very different, it’s still so beneficial to connect horizontally. I’ve spoken with other new managers about the challenges they face or others who are parents who work full-time and understand some of the challenges I’m facing and systems I’m trying to adjust.

All that to say, I’ve learned a ton from people at a similar level as me over the years. I’ve applied those lessons to my work, and I now have a whole host of connections at other companies who are doing interesting work because we connected when we were all more junior.

Where to start horizontal networking

Like any networking, it can be done from anywhere. I’ve been networking remotely for nearly my entire career, and it has never hindered my career growth. Still, you can start networking in person at events or meetups. This is something I did a lot more of early in my career, and it was so beneficial for meeting a wide range of connections that would help me later on.

Another popular method is joining online communities. Take a look to see if there are communities for your industry or area — either on social media or in dedicated community groups.

Social media itself is a wonderful way to network and one I’ve used for years. I’ve connected with some of my favorite people via Twitter and LinkedIn, and Threads is giving similar energy for sparking genuine conversations.

Finally, you can simply reach out to people in similar roles. This is another approach I’ve taken over the years that has always paid off. Essentially, I’ll look for people who are at similar companies to the one I’m at and have a similar title, and then I’ll cold reach out to them and ask if they’d be up for some knowledge sharing.

→ Read all about how I approach cold outreach here

There’s a place for all kinds of networking in your career toolbox. I’m not saying don’t reach out to people who are ahead of you in your career — there’s a case for that, too. But don’t forget about the people who are on the same rung as you; you have a ton to offer each other, and that connection will only become more helpful as you all advance in your careers.

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