Recently I’ve taken it upon myself to work harder at Networking. After almost five years in the same position I’ve realized that I routinely work with the same people across our organization but that I’m unsure if I could leverage these contacts in a time of need. With the dawn of 2015 I made it my mission, not simply a resolution, to engage more actively in networking. My mission to network required a two-fold commitment. Firstly, I need to engage more frequently and secondly, I need to ensure I follow up on those engagements.
Building relationships is key to any strong business strategy. Whether it be connecting with a new colleague or working on another project with a previous partner I believe it’s extremely important to meet new challenges head on. Welcoming new changes, working with others outside your office and attending social and business events opens a door to making new contacts. Personally, I’ve done my best not to decline or ignore upcoming events. Instead, my 2015 goal was to attend at least one cross-department event a month.
Choosing to attend events, whether they be coffee-and-learns or simply staff barbecues means that I’ve opened up my window to meeting new individuals who work within our organization. While some of these individuals are perhaps not those with which I would ever truly engage it has always provided me with an opportunity to learn more about our company. Information I learn from an Administrative Assistant at one event can help break the ice when speaking with a Direction or Manager at another.
I find this type of in person networking to be the most valuable. In an organization like a University paths cross both frequently and infrequently on campus, but the more colleagues you can connect with the more social and friendly an environment you can create. Rather than identifying all my colleagues as competition for future openings I have chosen to embrace them as help. Creating a true network of partnerships also allows me to showcase my abilities to help other officers and departments.
Beyond creating an intertwined network in person the ability to showcase talents to other departments creates a number of new connections. However, in today’s modern business world once a meeting is finished everything often becomes digital. At times, it’s not almost completely uncommon to complete an entire project by email, phone and via web collaboration platform. Because of the independent and somber nature of the new web 2.o project platform it’s important to follow up with connections.
Personally, I have found LinkedIn to be the best tool for charting these experiences. I have even developed a personal system for adding new contacts.
1. Establish connections through work project or repeated meetings.
Personally, I don’t believe in filling my LinkedIn profile with fluffy contacts. If we haven’t met regularly, or if I couldn’t pick you out of a police line-up I don’t make it my mission to connect with you.
2. Complete the project before connecting.
Unless my colleague reaches out to connect during the project I don’t connect with new colleagues until a project is done. In the past, I’ve experienced both good and bad working experiences with other departments and I find it best to wait to connect until you know if you will actually see the project through with the original team. If a change in team members occurs in the first day or week of a project I find connecting with someone you only met once to be a bit over zealous.
3. Personalize your connection.
Finally, when connecting I always find it important to personalize my connection. Simply sending a message to a contact asking them to connect seems to informal. In my best step forward I will always send a new contact a personal note. Not only do I thank them for the great experience of having shared the project, but I also include a though about how I either learned something new from them, or an experience that I truly valued.
4. Document your endeavors.
LinkedIn has a great tool that also allows you, when possible, to document major projects you’ve worked on. Being in a web industry I love the opportunity to share with my connections recognition for a project. Personally, I believe that this allows my connection to see that I appreciate their efforts, but it also creates a network of references. If a potential employer already knows a colleague with which I’ve worked on a project they may seek an off-the-record opinion. Being genuine and warm to them after the project is complete may leave the lasting impression you need.
Over the next year it’s my goal to turn this practice into principle. Creating a larger network of connections after every new project will not only allow me to develop a strong network but will help me ensure I am always thinking about ways to make this practice better. Perhaps in six months I’ll have learned a new trick from the way a connection has interacted with me!
After all, in social media, it is truly all about evolving.