It is sometimes terrifying to hear that someone “knows” or “has heard of” you via a social media channel. Perhaps it is my political conditioning, but I almost always assume it is because I tweeted or posted something that the reader disagrees with. While I’ve never had this theory proven true, it is important to constantly keep in mind that, more often nowadays, you are what you tweet.
Developing a professional network with like-minded political followers is presumably easier in Ottawa than it is in other locations. Government is an economy here, and more individuals are tuned into politics than elsewhere in the country as it impacts their livelihood. However, it is easy to get consumed talking with political trolls rather than connecting with individuals who are equally interested in growing their professional networks.
I have given some thought to a few ways that young people who follow politics and are in government relations (myself included) can take advantage of the Ottawa bubble to grow their networks, online and offline:
- Participate in Twitter Chats. StartUp Canada runs almost weekly #StartUpChats on Twitter over lunch which offer advice to local youth and entrepreneurs about a wide range of topics, including how to improve interactions with government. There are also conference specific #hashtags which trend regularly on issues with political relevancy; #cdninnovation and the recent #YouthImpactSummit are some conversations young government relations and political professionals could participate in to develop thought-leadership. Contributing meaningfully to these dialogues can lead to connections wtih individuals that share your interests.
- Join LinkedIn groups in your field and share original content with them. LinkedIn has become a good resource for professionals to connect with one another, but also to share work-related content with a professional audience. There’s a Government Relations Professionals networking group with 20,000 members who frequently share articles with one another, and there’s the ability to post or write articles for both your connections and the connections of others. You can also increase your presence on LinkedIn by creating a corporate page and posting regularly to those who follow your company. There is no doubt that individuals are looking to LinkedIn for this content; for example, even without any effort on our corporate page, Summa has nearly 400 followers.
- Offer your 9-5 services outside of work hours through volunteerism. Networking in the same crowd of people who do the same things you is not always efficient in growing your network. Finding a cause you are passionate about and contributing to it professionally can help not only introduce you to new people, but provide a resource for you to share expertise with those who truly value it. Are you a communications professional by day? Consider helping a local charity with their event promotion for a holiday fundraiser. If you are gifted with developping skills, seek out non-profit organizations who have a website that could use a facelift. For government relations professionals, take advantage of organizations like the Canadian Advocacy Network, which connects non-profits and charities in need of government relations support with a team of GR professionals who can assist on a volunteer basis.
While the fall session is a busy one, it is also a good time to connect with those on and off the hill. I plan on taking advantage of conferences and events to connect with new individuals, and trying to be more regularly active on both Twitter and LinkedIn. I also am hoping to share more of my occasional commentary on social media channels over the course of the next 6-12 months. Particularly with the Conservative leadership race around the corner, there will be many opportunities to discuss the race and what it means for the party, particularly from the perspective of younger Party supporters.