Networking is not easy for everyone. I’ve struggled with networking in some areas, especially with strangers and colleagues I don’t know well. Building working relationships with my colleagues is much easier for me, but many people don’t realize that networking includes building those relationships with your colleagues.
Last month, I participated in a panel discussion for the APM Women in Project Management annual convention to share some professional networking tips. Panel debates are a great way to express your opinions.
Our session was a standing room only affair. We had many excellent questions for Susie Boyce, the facilitator, and the delegates.
Here are some of my networking tips and tricks.
Why is networking important for your career?
Projects are about building involvement and getting things done through others. My network helps me to know who I can talk to when I need help, both informally and formally. Networking is essentially helping others to help me do my job, and mine.
What’s the benefit of actively participating in network activities?
You can keep your job.
Knowledge work is what we do. We are paid for the knowledge that we have and the way we use it to help others achieve their business goals.
We need to stop thinking that networking is something you do at night or at events. Instead, we should consider it the reason we have jobs. Project managers bring people together to accomplish work.
Today’s business leaders – yes that’s you boss – expect you network and keep a contact book, not only within your organization, but also outside.
What specific ways have you used networking to build your career?
Networking has helped me to build a reputation for being a professional project manager. I hope that I am well-thought out at work.
My books have been written outside of my daily work as a project manager. I reached out to my contacts list to find people with interesting stories for the case studies.
It’s not networking that makes you a better professional. It’s how you interact with people once they’re in your network. It’s possible to spend a lot time networking without seeing any career benefits. Helping others is essential. Make a positive impression and follow-up with your actions. Be credible and visible
I can directly contribute to #networking through my current job. https://t.co/jgYckjXtGW
October 21, 2015 — Mark Phillipy (@SensiblePM).
How can you divide your time between offline and online networking?
I don’t make any distinctions. I try to attend at least two events per year in person (like the APM WiPM conference that inspired this article).
It’s different now that I have children, as I no longer live in London. I don’t do evening events. I used to go to networking events or evening talks a few times per month. London is great for this, there are tons of events happening all the time, many of them free.
When I’m at work, I do a lot more in-person networking with my peers. Sometimes, that can be frustrating: I prefer to get on with my job and not engage in small talk, especially when I have so much work to do. I have learned that it is important to maintain those relationships, especially when I work remotely.
What should project managers consider when building their network?
Projects can be transitional. It is difficult to maintain relationships after projects end. Close networks dissolve overnight. One of my first IT projects in healthcare was with an amazing team. We overcame many technical and business hurdles to get software installed in many different locations across the country. The project took several years, and the team moved on to other projects. It was a devastating experience. In fact, one of my colleagues quit to start a new job.