Let’s face it, you are not necessarily going to find your next job via a headhunter or in the newspaper (though I am not saying that it never happens this way, it is just more difficult to do so). The best jobs are often not advertised. Most likely, you are going to find your next opportunity via a network you have created – a network of friends, colleagues, and acquaintances – who have access to companies and know about opportunities that you couldn’t find out about any other way. Or, if you did find out about an opportunity through a newspaper want ad – you likely have a better chance of getting noticed among the many resumes received when you are introduced through a network connection. However, networks can help in ways other than helping you find a new job. Your network can be a sounding board to help you solve a particularly difficult problem. They can help you further develop an idea or concept you have and can assist you in understanding market trends and help keep you updated on current business topics.
(Social) Networking Tools and Groups
There are some great tools available for social networking. One popular tool is LinkedIn. LinkedIn is a great way to keep in touch with individuals you have worked with before or know from college. It is also a valuable method for sharing your expertise and knowledge in discussion groups and/or responding to questions from others on LinkedIn (“Answers”). LinkedIn enables you to expand your network and meet others by asking for introductions from your current connections to others to which they are connected.
Twitter is another tool for networking. Through Twitter you can share information with others and learn from them. With Twitter you don’t need to have a prior relationship or know someone in order to follow them. This enables you to reach individuals you may not otherwise ever have the opportunity to reach. Specific topics of interest on Twitter, such as #projectmanager or #leadership, enable you to connect globally with others who share your specific interests.
There are other groups you can likely find to participate in with like-minded people. For example, I belong to the Employee Engagement Network. This is a global group of individuals who are interested in and involved in employee engagement. Another group I belong to is Business Exchange. BusinessWeek’s Business Exchange allows users to create business-focused topics and share information with other business-focused users who are interested in the same topics.
I’m sure you know of other networking tools and/or groups that you have found of value – please share in the Comments field below.
Networking Events and Conferences
Attending networking events is another way to meet others. You can find professional networking events in nearly every city. These events are sometimes focused on a specific topic or group such as for marketing specialists or individuals who are unemployed and job searching. In addition, conferences offer the opportunity for building your network also. For example, PMI Global Congress is a great conference to attend to network with other project managers and increase your skills and knowledge around project management-focused topics. Most conferences provide networking sessions during lunch or in the evenings – another great way to meet others, make connections and share information!
Networking isn’t Easy! It’s Work!
Networking does not come easy to many people – you have to work at it. You can’t just expect someone who you met once to recommend you for an opportunity or to share information with you unless you work on maintaining and building the relationship with that person. The ability to nurture relationships is a key component of building and maintaining an effective network. Also key is remembering that networking is bi-directional. Your network is just not a group of people who are there to help you find your next opportunity or introduce you to someone who may have a job for you. Basically, they are not there only for when you need them. These are individuals you need to be actively interested in and involved with – people you want to keep in touch with and share information with. You need to devote time to your network on a regular basis. Bottom line – don’t just contact your network when you are in desperate need for help. Keep in touch with them regularly and be interested in what they have going on themselves – not just what they can do for you.
For example, let’s assume that someone in your network is interested in coaching others. Maybe you just came across an article on the benefits of hiring coaches. Why not share this article with that individual? Include a short note that the individual may find the attached article of interest. Ask them how they are doing in finding coaching opportunities. Maybe someone else in your network is already a coach – connect these two individuals. They have a lot in common! Or maybe someone in your network just moved to a new position in their company or took a new job – send them a note to congratulate them on their new opportunity. I regularly share white papers, articles, and interesting books I have read with my network.
Broaden your network. Don’t just network with others in your specific industry. Networking outside your specific job function or your specific industry is a more creative approach and helps you to gain a broader perspective on the opportunities available and on business in general. What you learn from others in your network can help you grow professionally and personally.
Ask for help in building your network. Your network members can introduce you to others. For example, if you are interested in understanding more about the manufacturing industry, ask individuals in your current network if they have any connections in that specific industry. Ask them to make an introduction for you. Similarly, if someone in your network mentions that they are interested in a specific industry or company, and you have a contact in that area – offer to make an introduction. By sharing your resources, you become a valuable partner in the network and help you broaden your network.
What are your networking stories – the good, the bad and the ugly?
What has worked for you?
How has a network helped you develop professionally?
Resources – Harvard Business Review Articles on Networking
The following can be found online at: http://hbr.harvardbusiness.org/.
Harvard Business Review, 2008: Start Networking Right Away (Even If You Hate It)
Harvard Business Review, 2006: How Leaders Create and Use Networks
Harvard Business Review, 2005: How To Build Your Network
Gina Abudi has over 15 years consulting experience in a variety of areas, including project management, process management, leadership development, succession planning, high potential programs, talent optimization and development of strategic learning and development programs. She is the president at Abudi Consulting Group, LLC ( http://www.abudiconsulting.com ) in Amherst, NH. Gina blogs at http://www.GinaAbudi.com.
She has been honored by PMI as one of the Power 50 and has served as Chair of PMIs Global Corporate Council Leadership Team. Gina is currently President-Elect of PMI Massachusetts Bay Chapter Board of Directors. She has presented at various conferences on topics ranging from general management and leadership topics to project management. Gina received her MBA from Simmons Graduate School of Management.
Copyright 2009 – 2011 Gina Abudi – All Rights Reserved Worldwide.