The Art of Professional Networking

Monday, August 26, 2019

Professional Networking Events in Houston

There are many things we are taught in school.

How to sit quiet. How to speak proper. When to write our exams. Where to write our names on exam sheets

In courses like Law, you’re taught the basic rules of Contract. That one cannot give what they do not have, a.k.a nemo dat quod non habeat. And that you have some obligation to be your sister’s keeper, under the law of tort.

We are urged to make the best grades, and are assured of the good life waiting for us outside the gates of school, once we stick to our teachers’ every wise word.

What we are seldom taught (if taught at all) is the need for, and the art of networking.

Networking entails constantly meeting, discussing with, and exchanging ideas with people of same (professional) interests. In these times, where ‘being intelligent’ has been made the new average by the many tools that the internet affords, networking has become as fundamental to career growth, as tomato is to Nigerian jollof.

I learnt this the hard way in the course of my career, especially moving to a whole new place, and having little number of professional contacts in my field. I would go to a professional event, sit tongue-tied, feeling lost the whole time, and leaving lostier than I was when I came.

Over time however, I came to understand (and appreciate) the value of networking. Through networking, I have met amazing mentors, built professional (and personal) bonds, and even gotten awesome job opportunities. And I have learnt that even for the self-employed, networking is an AWESOME tool in putting your brand out there, and keeping the business rolling in.

While I cannot promise you that I have locked down the "48 Secret Laws of Power-Networking" (lol... if you find them, please share them with me too) I can share with you tips I have learnt along the way, to help you get started on this networking journey.

1. Build your online Profile: If you're still under the mistaken belief that your employability is only based on your CV, then you're still stuck somewhere in the mid-80s.

With the availability of digital footprints, it is easy scour the internet for a quick due diligence on a prospective employer, employee or business partner.

Be deliberate with your digital footprints. Keep your online profile consistent, and marketable.

If you do not have a LinkedIn account, again, you're somewhere in the mid-1960s. At the very least, have an up-to-date LinkedIn account. And it doesn't matter if you're still in school; the earlier, the better.

2. Join Professional networking groups: Snoop around your vicinity and profession. What networking groups would afford you the opportunity to build your professional community? Join professional associations where you can, sign up for networking events, and strive to attend these events when you can.

3. Engage: It is not enough to just join professional groups, then sit pretty. Engage in events you attend. Engage on LinkedIn. It could be as simple as asking important questions to clarify salient points in an event, or clicking an article by someone in your field that you admire, and adding your own views. 

Reach out to members of your network on LinkedIn. When you do, keep it simple, and straight to the point. If you get a chance for a chat or coffee, find shared interests to chit-chat on as well.

4. Volunteer: There is often the mistaken belief that volunteering one’s services only benefits the organisation being volunteered. This is not true.

In addition to increasing one’s professional network based on interactions with people met at volunteering opportunities, there is also the advantage of gaining better knowledge first-hand in the area of specialty of the organisation. You could also volunteer your time with the associations you join, as well as your immediate community where you live.

5. Aim at building relationships: This is a tough one to digest sometimes. The truth is that nine out of ten times, no one will meet you at one sitting and hand you a job, or give you the keys to their business empire. But if you build genuine professional relationships, you would be increasing the number of people willing to refer you for or to an opportunity in future. More importantly, you'd be enriching yourself with valuable associations, which will carry beyond just finding the next gig.

When you start a networking relationship, look beyond "what can they do for me?" to forming an actual (professional) connection with the other person. See every network connection as a potential opportunity for long-term professional relationship, rather than as a means to an end. Nobody likes to be a "means" to an end.

6. Keep reading: It is important to keep yourself apprised on happenings in your area of interest so that at the very least, you can hold meaningful conversations during networking events/opportunities.

Make out time a week to read, either core materials, or online articles. Keep increasing your knowledge in the area.

7. Network laterally: While job-hunting or even business-hunting, it is easy to spend the most of your focus on networking with people more senior than you in your field, as they probably wield more influence and make the most of the business decisions.

But people greatly underestimate the huge resource that one's peers constitutes in networking. Your peers have their ears closer the ground; they know of the existence of that opportunity, even before "management" has decided to publish same. They understand the inner workings of the business or organisation, and are likely to be more emphatic in understanding the challenges you face. Accordingly, your lateral connections are more likely to be rooting for and with you, than connections hirer up the ladder.

Even your lateral connections also searching for opportunities (like your) are great avenues for networking. They may come across opportunities not suited for them, but which would be a perfect fit for you. They are also likely to be ready to go into business partnership with you, and take same risks with you.

In networking, never under-estimate your peers.

8. Keep Networking: When you FINALLY land that perfect job or the business client... you would be hurting yourself to stop networking. While you may not be available at the drop of a hat for every event, it is important that you keep yourself 'out there'. It would help you stay on top of potential opportunities for your organisation, and especially, for your own future development.

And even within your organisation, you will find that it is as important to continue to apply the networking skills you have acquired. Particularly if it is a bigger organisations, with various opportunities to explore for exciting work streams.

Whatever you do, remember that networking never gets old. Keep attending events. Keep meeting people. Keep making (and growing your connections)

Keep networking.

Paz,

Meg.






Photo-credit: www.unpakt.com




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2 comments

  1. Point 3 and 7 are quite profound.

    I have found Point 7 to be of immense value and Point 3, I'm working to get better at.

    Awesome post Meg!
    Thank you for this.

    ReplyDelete