0 Nurturing Your Network
- by Nicole Bridge
As the year winds down, pause and reflect on your career goals. Think back to when you were first hired. What kinds of plans did you set? Have you made progress against them? Are you content? What might bring greater satisfaction? Through this lens, begin setting professional intentions for 2019. While you organize, commit to enhancing your networks by making new connections and taking an active role in your community. In this newsletter we will share some tips and strategies for getting out there and making the most of every chance to meet people who can widen your perspectives and make a difference in your work experience.
Remember that networking won’t bring instant gratification. In other words, don’t measure your success by whether you secure a promotion or a new job after a first encounter. Think of networking as relationship-building. You can’t possibly know by reading a nametag or email signature line who might be of help to you. Be open to people who work in different divisions or unrelated job functions. Take time to get to know them, asking questions about what they do and about broad pressing issues like juggling family commitments and managing busy travel schedules. The truth is, these are topics people generally like to chat about- more than the technical functions of their job- and your taking the time to ask questions will make them feel comfortable and ensure that their meeting with you is memorable.
Plan Networking in Your Calendar
Write it down as a commitment because, honestly, that’s the only way you will make time for it. Set even small steps as a firm event in your calendar. For example, "Research organizational charts on the intranet.” Or, "Send congratulatory notes on LinkedIn.” Maybe even, "Check in with former cubical mate.” Maintain your network on a monthly basis.
Have a Canned Opener
Make introductions easy. To avoid sounding like a bore or fumbling over an explanation, have a loosely prepared opening statement. And be interesting! For example, "Hi, I’m John. You’ll be surprised to know I work at the tech desk. People think I just eat over our keyboards and never leave our screens. But I’ve worked in computer support for a long time and actually started as a travel support technician before coming to this organization.”
Don’t Just Take, Give Them Something Too
Be a thoughtful networker. Ask your new connection: Is there anything I can do to help you? You might offer a different perspective on a project they’re handling or even forward to them one of your best sample meeting agendas. If you meet someone for coffee, bring a third person- even if it’s just your regular lunch buddy. They will both benefit from meeting someone else. Consider inviting people to things outside of work such as yoga classes and museum lectures. Share powerful articles and book recommendations.
Networking- Even for Introverts
If the word "networking” makes you cringe and shrink uncomfortably in your seat, we have some tips and strategies to help even the most blushing introvert to network like a boss.
Be Genuine. When making a new connection, you don’t need to sound like you’re looking for a favor or a job. Ask about things you really want to know. Chances are, if you’re interested in it, people are likely interested in talking about it.
Arrive early. If you’re shy in large social situations, your knee-jerk might be to arrive 15 minutes late to networking events and socials. Next time try something different. Be one of the first to arrive. You’ll have an easier time speaking and connecting with one or two people at a time as they trickle into the event.
Be on. Each of us has certain times of the day when we’re "on” or more energetic than others. If you’re an early bird, try to connect with someone for coffee before work. If the end of the workday puts a spring in your step, meet for dinner.
Listen well. Want to know one of the best ways to stand out at a networking event? Let your listening skills shine. Instead of clamoring to be heard above the chatter, show your ability to stay cool, listen, and ask meaningful questions.
Follow-up. Following up after making a new connection is a critical part of networking. If the social, face-to-face aspect leaves you feeling anxious, then take comfort in the follow-up. Back in the comfort and tranquility of your own office compose a short, thoughtful email letting your new acquaintance know how much you enjoyed meeting them. This is an easy opportunity to make sure they don’t forget you.
Quick Guide to Creating Your Own Networking Opportunities
Take your networking skills out of the office, but don’t wait for opportunities to come to you. Take a few minutes each month to research events in your area and organize them in your calendar. Here are some ideas:
Attend an Agency Sponsored Event or Program.
- Make a connection in a variety of diverse environments: town halls, retirement luncheons, office picnics.
- Volunteer to lead a cross-functional team or project.
- Join an employer sponsored affinity group: Blacks in Government (BIG), Federally Employed Women (FEW), Veteran and Military Affinity Groups, etc.
Around the office
- Plan a "brainstorming” session with a co-worker. Ask them about their career goals and share yours. Can you introduce them to anyone in your network who might be helpful to them? Can they do the same for you?
- Make a point to introduce yourself to new employees or maybe even invite them to lunch.
- Smile! Earn a reputation as a "friendly” colleague- not only will your positivity set you apart from others, you will get to know a lot of people too.
Collegiate Alumni Association
- Visit their website and register as part of their online community.
- Search the list of alumni chapters. Find yours? Check out upcoming events such as monthly football watch parties, crab fests, and community service opportunities.
- Reach out to leadership team to introduce yourself and let them know you want to get involved.
- Reach out to the board members to ask about upcoming initiatives that might need extra hands.
- Consider your own gifts- like to entertain? Consider hosting the spring barbeque. Are you a baker? Deliver baked goods to new neighbors. Prefer working with your hands? Organize a spring grounds clean up.
- Research organizations that are relevant to your industry, read their FAQs, pay close attention to membership guidelines and fees before joining.
- Look for instructions on joining their discussion list and signing up for job list emails.
- Subscribe to the organization’s monthly newsletter or periodical and share valuable pieces with people in your network.
- Visit Eventbrite and sign up for events in your area. Check out the section called "Business, Get Connected” to find out about networking events and workshops.
- Peruse upcoming events for TED talks or lectures that are relevant to your industry and invite a work friend to join.
Nurturing your networks will get you in shape to achieve your 2019 career goals. Cast a wide net, be thoughtful and show them your authentic self. Someone you meet today just might be able to help you down the road.
ASK A MENTOR
Brainstorm with your mentor on some ideas for expanding your network. As them about their experiences and how networking has helped them in their career. Some questions you might ask:
- Do you attend any regular networking events?
- How do you “check-in” or maintain your network?
- What is your favorite opener when you meet someone new?
- How do you describe your job function succinctly to a new encounter?
- What kinds of things can you offer to help someone else who is hoping to expand their network?
- Do you ever connect with people outside of your division? Outside of this organization?
- What community clubs or organizations have you joined outside of work?
- What connection have you made that proved to be the most powerful in your career?