Put in the Work: Career Networking Tips

People Networking Photo

Regardless of how large or how small your professional network might be, you probably already have people in your contact list who can open doors to new opportunities. And spending quality time with your professional contacts goes a long way toward building the type of relationships that will help you advance your career.

A recent study by PayScale found that over one-third of professionals in the U.S. landed their current job by referral. And while a lot of those referrals came from family members or close friends, 32% came from business contacts.

However, identifying those leads can take some effort.  But it’s worth it!

Put your network to work

How do you reach out to somebody if you’re interested in a job? What’s the most tactful way to do it? James Brady, CIO for the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services, Los Angeles, California, USA, says his personal network helped him land the type of leadership position he was seeking. 

“I think if you’re not asking something from somebody, that’s always the better way to do it,” Brady says. “So if you’re on that volunteer committee and that professional association, you’re there to give, you’re there to contribute and I think that resonates with people. Maybe you join a committee or maybe you just want to share something—maybe some insights or you could write a blog article or you could contribute to a podcast or do something where it’s not necessarily obvious that you’re really looking out for you.”

Continuously strengthen your network

A strong network is an ongoing endeavor. Refreshing contacts or adding to and streamlining your list is key to being ready to solve problems as they arise. 

When updating your network, don’t underestimate the power of positive paybacks. If you’ve done something for someone else, it’s human nature that they’ll be more inclined to assist you with something that you might need later on. 

Rick Knaggs, director of the global IT PMO for ICU Medical in San Clemente, California, USA, says: “It’s always very difficult to walk into a relationship that you may just be building and say, ‘Oh, by the way, would you do something for me? I know we’re in the process of building this relationship, but I need, I need.’ And if we turn it around to say, you know, ‘As we build this relationship, is there something I can do for you?’ it’s going to help you more in the long term.”

Approach with authenticity 

When reaching out to someone you might not know well, the key is to be authentic and direct with your request. “It’s easy to send a request and to connect with somebody online, but what’s difficult is taking that tie and making it something more, which is building the relationship,” says Nina Scarnici, associate director of project management for Publicis Seattle, Seattle, Washington, USA. “So I would advise people to reach out to people and say, ‘Hi, how are you, my name is Nina, and I would love to pick your brain on X, Y and Z.’ I think when you boil it down, it really has to be authentic to you.”

Deeper Dive: These tips are part of the PMI’s podcast, Career Development – Professional Networking Pro-Tips on Projectified®, available on iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play Music or PMI.org/podcast.

Digital Exclusive article developed for Project Management Institute, Inc. by staff content writer Deryn Zakielarz.

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