COM0015 – Blog #3: Professional Networking Now and In the Future

Networking has always been the bane of my professional life.  As someone who is terribly shy, the prospect of getting out and talking to complete strangers makes me die a little inside.  To add to that shyness, I’m also a true Introvert so networking in person literally sucks the energy right out of me.  All that being said, I’ve been getting better at it over the years.  The best advice I have come across for overcoming my fears of networking has come from the book Splash: An Introvert’s Guide to Being Seen, Heard and Remembered.  Definitely worth a read for any of my fellow Introverts.

Being the shy Introvert that I am, networking in the online world is my comfort zone.  I don’t need to worry about how I’m dressed, if I ate too much garlic at lunch, or have to keep up with the dreaded small talk!  While it may be within my comfort zone, after reading the lessons in this course, I’ve realized that I’ve got a lot of room for improvement, and need a good tune up in certain areas.

The Algonquin Social Media program has gotten me into blogging, and I am very thankful for that.  While I don’t maintain my own blog, I do maintain one for work, and my bio with attached picture is at the end of every post I write, and I slip my name into the list of keywords. This helps get my name more recognized, and people used to seeing my face.

While I seem to be doing well on the blogging front, my LinkedIn profile needs some serious attention. I went in to have a look at my profile the other day, and realized that my profile picture was over 10 years old!  I mean, it was a good picture, but was well overdue for an update.  My “resume” was also lacking in details, and didn’t reflect a bunch of my current activities.  When I updated it, I started getting a bunch of random messages from people in my network congratulating me on my new position, despite being in it for a few years already.  I guess it pays to stay current.

My other social media accounts, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, are private accounts.  I don’t really like mixing my personal life with my work life more than I need to.  That’s not to say that I don’t have friends who are also colleagues, but I tend to get *a little* vocal about my political views around elections, and I don’t want to be putting off clients, or potential clients because their views are wrong.  I maintain the company Facebook and Twitter accounts, but my name is not associated with them.  I am thinking about creating a “public” Twitter account for myself that I can use in my professional life for networking purposes. Has anyone else done this for themselves?  I’d love to hear thoughts on it.

I have a handful of commitments for the dreaded face-to-face networking in the next year or so.  I typically go to conferences on Career Development about 3-4 times a year, mostly in Ontario.  There are also a number of other smaller professional development events that I go to about 5-6 times a year, again all in the Career Development field.  For these events I make sure that I’ve had a haircut recently, and have a stack of business cards on me before I head out the door.

My overall strategy is to make sure all of my social networks are up to date, with current bios and pictures so people can identify me when I am out at the in person events.  There is a definite uptake in the number of LinkedIn network requests, and Twitter follows that happen right after an event, so I will make sure to a few things to the content of these channels before I head out with my new haircut and stack of business cards.

COM0015-Blog#3: Professional Networking Now and In the Future

As someone currently preparing to re-enter the workforce, putting together a strategy for developing my professional network is quite the timely assignment. At first this struck me as a somewhat daunting task, but my research leads me to believe that with the right guidance, small, sensible steps can lead to big payoff!

I know my first step in this journey has to be my LinkedIn profile. Much of mine is complete, except for the summary of my expertise – what LinkedIn says most people look at when evaluating candidates. I recently read an article by Pamela Vaughan, How to Use LinkedIn: 35 LinkedIn Tips for Professional Networking, Business & Marketing that suggests posting work samples and articles on your account to keep your profile fresh and dynamic. It also has lots of other great tips for entrepreneurs and those responsible for their company’s LinkedIn page. If you are a job seeker like me, this article from the Daily Muse Editor is a must read. So my commitment for developing my online professional network is to get my LinkedIn act together – make it complete, and make it dynamic by creating content that showcases my interests and skills.

With respect to developing my professional network in person, I will commit to doing a weekly search of business events, seminars, and conferences of interest to me personally or relevant to my intended direction professionally. The Ottawa Chamber of Commerce has a convenient Events Page with lots of events open to members and non-members alike, some are even free to attend. Watch in particular for the Mayor’s Breakfast and Eggs n’ Icons events, they tend to draw great crowds.

Whether online or in person, after making connections it’s important to nurture them. In Ten Ways to Build and Maintain Your Professional Network, the critical components of keeping in touch are emphasized (don’t make it all about you – remember their birthdays, acknowledge professional milestones, etc) to help ensure your network maintains a genuine interest in helping you out as well.

COM0015 Blog 3: Professional Networking Now and in the Future

As a personal chef, the majority of my networking happens through referrals from happy customers, therefore in person networking has worked best for me thus far. In person networking also takes place via local associations such as chambers of commerce, and other local business associations. 988636_10151462026005426_1459766305_nWhen other businesses in my area have a need for food services, they tend to go with someone like myself who is a fellow member of a common association. Given the nature of my business, which is in person, I have found this type of networking to be most effective.

I am also a member of the Canadian Personal Chef Association which itself gives my business added credibility. Through this association, leads and referrals are sent my way. However, I have found that in the rural area where I live, referrals via the CPCA are few and far between. Most of them are directed to chefs in bigger urban areas.

On line networking tools that I have been utilizing include Linkedin, Facebook, and my association with the Canadian Personal Chef Association. 263223_10150242043860426_5525968_nI have also been blog writing about food, nutrition and cooking with the purpose of remaining or becoming top of mind to clients and potential clients.

In the next 6-12 months I would like to broaden my on line professional networking.  I would like to become more active on Instagram with some high quality food photography, and I would also like to try some vlogging showing some cooking in action.

COM0015 Blog Post #3 – Hello….It’s Me.

While I maintain professional contacts both online and in person I still tend to make face to face contact first and then follow with an online connection.tag & card

My online world includes Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter profiles. I use Facebook primarily for personal connections, but do include some business connections to keep current on news and events.

LinkedIn is for my business connections. While these sometimes overlap as friends I do not use this platform to post personal details. I connect with people I have both met in person as well as some who I have met virtually. I do however still struggle a bit with accepting requests to connect from people with whom I have no prior relationship.

I don’t use Twitter very frequently but do maintain account to follow and be followed.

In person, I regularly attend a number of events where networking is the focus. Through my full-time and part-time jobs I regularly take part in events hosted by local chambers of commerce, business associations and industry partners.gcacc

In the next 6-12 months I plan be more deliberate about my ‘in-person’ networking by making stronger connections with people I don’t know well and seek out information on businesses I would like to learn more about. In the on-line space, I would like to interact more with LinkedIn groups to both develop my networks and learn more about opportunities in my areas of expertise.

What about you – do tend to network more on-line or in person?  Do you struggle with making connections in either medium?