As a kid, I hated when people told me to mind my own business. In fact, I still don’t like it. I’m a curious type (I may have been called nosy once or twice), and nothing frustrates me more than having my natural curiosity shut down.
Luckily, I’ve turned my nosiness into opportunity. With social media at my fingertips, I can find the answers to many of my questions, such as “How did he get that dream job?” or “How was she chosen as a guest speaker for that incredibly cool conference?”
Interest in how people in your network got where they are is natural—and you shouldn’t feel badly about wanting to find out more. So read on for five tips on how to harness your nosiness and use it to serve you on your career path.
You notice that a friend of a friend started a new job at a company you’ve been coveting for months. You’d love to work there, but you have zero clue how to get your foot in the door—until now.
You, my friend, have an “in,” so don’t be afraid to reach out to that acquaintance and see if you can take her to coffee. If she meets with you, go ahead and ask her how her new role’s going—what made her leave her previous one for this company.
You may not be able to ask for a referral at this point, but at least you can get some insight about the company from a current employee, and you never know where the connection may lead you.
Always look for the personal websites of people you admire—you can typically find their sites by just typing their names into Google or looking at their social media.
Compile a list of your favorites, and jot down notes on why you like them: Is it the format, the tabs they’ve included, or how they present themselves in their bios?
If you’re creating your own site, you can learn a lot from the examples in front of you instead of staring at a blank page and feeling overwhelmed.
If you’re digging through the sites as a part of your career research, don’t forget to see if there’s a resume tab—many professionals will have a link to their own, which is a bonus for you.
Look to it for examples of what to include on your own and to see what kinds of positions people in your industry have held, helpful especially if you’re considering a career change.
The next time the conversation turns to careers, boldly initiate a discussion about salaries. It’s easiest to find out how much a certain position pays when you can ask a friend directly, rather than poke around Glassdoor, hoping that the estimate is accurate.
Assuming you’re pretty close with the people you’re speaking to, it’s not crazy to ask how much they make—if not the exact amount, the general range, or at the very least, what kind of benefits and perks they’re offered.
Arming yourself with this insider info can come in handy if you’re applying for a similar job at a different company and aren’t sure what to say when asked about your own salary range.
If you’ve got your sights set on a particular job, plan your way there by using LinkedIn. Once you identify your target contact (the person who works at the perfect company with your ideal position), see what steps led him or her to that job. Notice what positions preceded the ideal job title—take note of what duties and responsibilities accompany each role, and use that info to help shape your next move.
You might discover that you need to take additional courses to gain a certain skill set for the career you desire. Or perhaps you need to pivot and start out at a junior level in the field you want to transition into.
Whatever it is, your LinkedIn research will help you build a road map for your next move.
Know what’s going on in the professional lives of your friends, from major career changes down to the little details. Is your old roommate a keynote speaker at a marketing conference you’ve been dying to speak at? Congratulate his win, and ask him how he made that happen. Keep an eye out for any opportunities that would suit your friends, and pass along the information—you never know when your helpful actions could lead someone to consider you for an opportunity.
Using your curiosity as a tool for career development will help you get ahead—just be cautious of thinking that you have to follow the exact paths of the people you admire. While your nosiness can help inform you of all the opportunities out there, it’s up to you to buckle down, make a plan for what you want to pursue next, and then do the work (and maybe get back to “minding your business,” at least, for a little while).
This article originally appeared on The Daily Muse and is reprinted with permission.