What is your present strategy for developing your professional network online and in person? What activities and commitments are you making in the next 6-12 months to continue the development of your networks?
Oh dear, networking. Does that mean talking to people I don’t know? Sometimes, yes. It also means talking to people I already know in order to develop new relationships. We are all interconnected in some way or another and a handshake is the first step to meeting, greeting and networking.
I have been invited to numerous young professional networking events through work. I have gone to a handful. The issue is that the attendees are also young professionals looking to get ahead and they’re not handing out full time positions (my current objective). But they’re not useless. The ability to say hi to someone in a crowded hallway or exchange a wave or smile is so empowering, especially if one feels alone and generally unconnected.
Personally, I prefer non-traditional networking. When I think of ‘networking’ I think of hand shaking, team building and smiling while juggling plates of appetizers and a cup or coffee or glass of wine. Although those days aren’t over, it’s definitely not how I am most comfortable networking. Through my work there are multiple opportunities to volunteer one’s time to participate in campaigns, activities and events. This is my strategy. Participate. Shake hands. Do good deeds and get noticed. Within a few weeks of starting my current job I was voluntold (?) for an event planning opportunity that has connected me to people across my sector and now the Big Boss knows my name, where I hail from and from time to time we discuss yoga, the weather and trips home in the elevator. So this is the plan. Keep participating, keep shaking hands and do as many good deeds as possible. Get noticed.
That’s my in person strategy. I’m personally more comfortable with that aspect of my strategy than my ‘online’ strategy – currently not much more than a decent LinkedIn profile. And I’m okay with that. The network I’m looking to develop, I think, cares more about the ‘me’ in person than my online presence. That said, I won’t let my profile fall to the wayside – I’ll make sure it has an appropriate photo, enough but not too much detail and ensure that I keep my connections up to date.
So, should I make new commitments? Take on new activities? I currently volunteer for a local community organization and when I signed up earlier this year I made a 1-year commitment. I’ll have to decide if it’s a commitment I’m going to stick with or say goodbye to it and hello to something new. Will it advance my networking goals and take me in the ‘right’ direction? Those are decisions I will have to make in real time and without information about how my life might change in the near future.
My general plan, incorporating the ‘in person’ strategy, is to stick fast, stay strong and be there for what I’ve committed to and promised to be there for. Beyond that, I’ll have to evaluate my options, weigh the pros and cons and bravely stick my hand out and introduce myself to someone or something I don’t know. That’s how I’m going to shake things up if that’s what I choose to go for. It’s as simple as that.