These days, people rarely work at the same employer for the majority of their careers. We've embarked on a "job hopping" era, with the average person switching jobs an average of 12 times during his or her career. Younger demographics are particularly inclined to make a leap. For Millennials, the median tenure is less than 3 years, according to The Bureau of Labor Statistics' Employee Tenure Report.

But switching jobs, especially if you are relocating or switching industries, is tough. The biggest hurdle is figuring out how to stand apart from the competition. Those trying to break into technology without the engineering credentials or past industry experience often find the journey incredibly arduous. Often, your resume alone won't even buy you a chance to break in. So what can you do to break down the barriers in industries such as technology, where not having a resume filled with the right buzzwords and metrics success to back them up, will leave you on the sidelines? Fortunately, there is one thing that you possess that can provide you with the type of extraordinary power needed to break in--your network.

Truth be told, you can inherit a powerful network just because of the city you grew up in. Many are at a major disadvantage simply because they were not raised in the "right" city or did not attend the "right" school. But, our networks are incredibly malleable and, over time, and with the proper strategy, anyone can increase the potency of his or her network.

Last week, I sat on a panel at the Collision Conference alongside three leaders in venture capital. Much of the conversation revolved around the need to break down the Silicon Valley silos that prevent many outsiders from breaking into the technology.  Without hesitation, all panelists agreed that constantly strengthen one's network and developing the right mindset around relationship building was crucial to breaking down the silos.

When I asked for advice on how to source these strong relationships, Jenny Lawton, COO of startup accelerator TechStars, illuminated, "I don't think that I can stress enough the value of give-first. By its nature, giving implies that you first have to let go of concerns around being open and supportive." This comment highlighted one of the best tactical pieces of advice around networking, give-first.

Giving doesn't come naturally to everyone, but research has proven that giving and altruism is fundamental to one's success. In his acclaimed book "Give and Take", Adam Grant explains that there are three types of people: givers, takers, and matchers. Givers prefer to give more than they receive. They are outwardly-focused and concerned with helping the people in their network. Grant's research revealed that givers tend to be most successful. Not only do they make for more effective leaders, but they also tend to be better team players.

It's not difficult to connect the dots. By putting others' interests first, givers command high levels of trust and respect. Their focus on how they can help others is powerful. It triggers a domino effect, whereby the people in their network are more motivated to help them and see them succeed.

Perhaps most important, givers don't see relationships as mere transactions. Janet Bannister, a Partner at Real Ventures,  explained to the audience that she never considers herself to have a strong network, nor does she attend events with the primary goal of networking. "Those terms ["network" and "networking"] seem very transactional to me. I prefer to seek relationships that are built on a foundation of mutual trust and respect," Bannister expressed.  "I go to events to meet great people and see if there are things that I can do to help them achieve their objectives," she concluded.

An important trait necessary to give-first is something to give--the unique thing that makes you valuable to others. It could be a specific skill, knowledge of a niche area, past experiences, or it could be as simple as your time to offer. No matter what your offering, finding the people that need it is critical, according to Martina Lauchengco, an Operating Partner at Costanoa Ventures. Lauchengco told the audience, "sharing what you know and showing the world you have a point-of-view is a great way for others to see your value for themselves."   

To many, networking is viewed as a daunting task, but it doesn't need to entail drawn out happy hours with stale conversations and cheap booze. The best networkers are laser-focused on making an impact and building long term relationships with people who they can genuinely help. Giving first is the first step in winning the long game and discovering your next big opportunity.

Anne Gherini is a monthly contributor to Inc. Magazine. She is the Vice President of marketing at Affinity and a venture partner at TwelveVC. 

Published on: May 31, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.