Weaving your networking safety net

November 2, 2011 at 9:40 AM Leave a comment

Recently finding myself at the  onset of a job search, I’ve felt a little like I was falling. Anyone who’s been laid off or between jobs can relate to this unsupported feeling and references to “where I will land” are bountiful. Luckily for me, I’ve spent the last few years weaving a network that’s softening the fall.

The power of networking isn’t a secret. Whether it’s in person or online, connecting to professionals whose experience overlaps yours is important to professional development. No one gets ahead by working in a box by themselves.

My approach in northeast Ohio was to diversify and form lasting professional relationships based on mutual respect. Granted my last name was an asset in this region for opening doors, I made sure to branch outside former students and PR connections of my father.

I’ve listed some basic tips below. Even if you don’t expect to join the ranks of the unemployed, these pointers can help you improve at your current position and open doors for career advancement down the road.

Follow your interests. I participated in a litany of industry organizations from IABC to SM clubs, PRSA and AAF. All introduced me to interesting people I’ve stayed in contact with who work in the PR field or something closely related. Pursuing these adjacent specifications gave me an education in each as well as where PR fits into the mix.

Be politely persistent. People are busy but generally willing to meet with you. People like helping people, and in the PR field are happy to add another card to their rolodex. Reach out politely to set up an informal meeting and follow up with grace – you’ll be surprised by the warm reception.

Get uncomfortable. Remember you’re looking to weave a network and not braid a rope. Strengthening existing connections is a part of this, but too often people stay in their safe zone. Branch out. To coworkers, industry notables and strangers at networking events – you never know who can help you, or vice versa. It doesn’t take long to determine if there’s not a fit, and the anxiety of awkwardness fades quickly, I promise.

Stay connected. When you’ve made a connection that’s genuine and mutual in some fashion, don’t let it dwindle. If the last two weeks has taught me anything, it’s that I’m glad I’ve maintained my network no matter how busy I was at the office. It’s not that hard, so quit saying you don’t have time. If a lunch or happy hour doesn’t fit into your calendar, a phone call, email, tweet or LinkedIn note can keep a connection fresh and show people you care.

This list could go on for days, but I’ve just listed a few. What do you think? What did I miss?

pics: branckruptcy.wordpress, shakerworkshops.com, nzetc.org

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