While your immediate project plate may be full, it’s important that you don’t neglect the long-term care and feeding of your project management career. A robust professional network can yield not only new job offers, but it’s also a prime place to forge lucrative business partnerships, connect with potential experts and other resources, touch base with colleagues working on projects in synergy with your own, and keep a bead on the state of regional and market-wide trends. The array of available networking platforms is staggering, but don’t feel you have to leverage them all – a little thoughtful planning can have you successfully networking with minimal effort.
A variety of online platforms exist to facilitate professional networking. Many support message forums, where members can ask questions, share information and announce events. Some platforms are regional, while others attract members from around the world. When evaluating the benefits of the various platforms, keep your own needs and style in mind. If you’re keen to connect with others in your industry, look for sites that support applicable sub-groups. Professionals interested in hearing about local networking events will want to seek out sites that are regionally focused. Individuals looking for new career opportunities may be most interested in platforms that allow members to upload resumes and professional bios, or offer a place for job listings.
Whichever platforms you choose to join, also consider signing up for one of the several online applications that allow you to interact with multiple networks from a single location. These all-in-one sites are designed to help you stay in touch with colleagues and expand your online network without investing an inordinate amount of time on the activity.
Below are a few tips to keep in mind when creating, maintaining and growing your online presence:
- Establish your e-mail or other contact preferences. You want to receive useful and timely information without being inundated.
- Keep your contact information up-to-date. The ability of other professionals to contact you is a critical component of any successful networking strategy.
- Be mindful when expanding your contact list. Connect with colleagues at every opportunity, but don’t make contact with someone just to increase your contact list.
- Respect your colleagues when requesting referrals. Referrals are a delicate subject, so remember to be respectful and sensitive when asking for a referral or introduction.
- Maintain a professional demeanor at all times. Remember that your online presence is always available for potential employers, clients and colleagues to view.
Most professional organizations offer members a variety of ways to network. Some maintain their own online message boards or e-mail lists, many provide educational opportunities that encourage members to connect and discuss trends or issues, and almost all have some sort of annual gathering that offers a mix of education, networking and recreation. The cost to join these groups varies widely, but the profession-specific support is a fantastic benefit. Other perks may include discounts on continuing education and access to organization-wide directories that list contact information and areas of expertise for all members.
Local chambers of commerce have been joined by a number of other regionally-focused networking organizations to provide area professionals with a way to connect with others. Events are often more frequent than those held by professional organizations, and include members from a wider range of industries and professions. The cost to attend is typically low (and occasionally free), and may be as simple as gathering at a local pub for a beer and some informal chatter. These groups can be a good way to identify local experts, resources and job opportunities.