The world is a lot smaller today than it used to be. Whether it be services provided, products manufactured, or simple information, the rest of the world can be a click away. As a working professional, it is relatively easy to slot an hour of time dedicated to returning e-mails or reaching out to colleagues, but if you ever had to start over again how hard would it be? Well, it would be a lot harder to start all over again without help from people in your industry. In the day-to-day struggle of balancing life and work, how important is it to establish a professional network? Or for that matter, how do you even start building a professional network? Here are some tips to get you started:
Know your skill set. If you are an IT project manager that specializes in Agile methodologies, you are far removed from the day-t0-day of a construction project manager that uses hands-on estimation and traditional project management methodologies. One thing that brings us all together is a skill set. The degree to which the skill set is used or expanded might vary between industries, but one thing is for sure: we all specialize in the temporary and unique. Knowing what skills you offer, and being able to speak intelligently, will garner positive attention.
Show your social side. It is far too easy to gravitate to people that you know in the room. Seeing a familiar face helps put everyone at ease and makes uncomfortable situations bearable. In the changing business world, few people would use the phrase, “better to be safe than sorry” when referring to networking. Putting yourself out of your comfort zone will show dedication and motivation. These are traits that are not easily forgotten, and they will help you network for future opportunities.
Don’t lose contact. As our lives get busier, we tend to focus on the tasks that get us through our work situation and home life. You may not be keen on sending e-mails to a contractor that you worked with 5 years ago every week. The reality is, you don’t need to be in constant contact to keep a connection. Linkedin is a powerful tool for job searches, great articles, and finding influencers. However, don’t underestimate congratulating an old colleague on an upcoming work anniversary or new job. By you reaching out, you are then exposed to hundreds of individuals that may require your skill set.
Be happy with what you do. While you shouldn’t steer every conversation toward something you love about your job. You should be able to discuss what positive impacts your profession is having on it’s respective industry. Having an active participation in your industry and community demonstrates that you like what you do, and you want to be better at it.
Building a professional network isn’t only about meeting people who can help you. Professional networks are a great way to help you through a bind at work, discuss new projects with experienced professionals, gain and share industry knowledge, and much more. It’s true that the world is getting smaller, and that means that our networks can continuously expand with more opportunities becoming available every day.
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