Gig Tips: 9 ways to enhance your professional network


I look back on the different jobs that I’ve had, the opportunities that I have had, and also the future outlook for myself (professionally speaking) and I cannot under-estimate the value of the network of individuals whom I have had the pleasure (or  sometimes displeasure) of interacting.

Do you know that I reach out to my network for personal and/or professional reasons AT LEAST WEEKLY to help me navigate through a problem and/or obtain information.   Most of the time I’m leveraging my network on a DAILY basis, but at a minimum I would say I’m leveraging it weekly.

network

Image source:  collegemedianetwork.com

How can you improve YOUR professional network?

  1. Realize and know the sources of the people in your network.  For me, my network consists of:
    • existing/previous colleagues
    • alumni from graduate school/college/highschool
    • existing/ previous clients
    • friends and/or neighbors in select fields (personal friends, moms/dads at daycare, moms/dads of your kids’ friends, etc.
    • select friends of friends, in select field
    • select individuals who have touched the work that I do through the years (e.g., vendors, partners, people I have interviewed, etc.)
  2. Keep contact information up-to-date; I am a fanatic about keeping my Outlook and personal email contact lists up-to-date with current email addresses and snail-mail addresses.  Whenever I receive an email from someone I have not heard from in a long time, I make sure the email info is current in Outlook, my personal email address book, etc.
  3. Use LinkedIn.   I am an avid user of LinkedIn.  I cannot believe the power of this tool and responsiveness of people who then become part of my own network once I start working with them
  4. Use alumni databases.  I use alumni databases extensively to find people in the right locations, companies, or skillsets that I need help with; also message boards that are set up within the alumni databases I find to be extremely useful
  5. Know how you most feel comfortable in reaching out; feel confident and believe in your story when reaching out; I’m definitely more email heavy than many people.  I’m a visual person and a record of something tends to work best with me (no kidding, hence this blog).   I do use phone, however less frequently.  I find that my first phone call outreach is a bit awkward, but once I get my story down and the reason why I’m reaching out, the dialogue gets much better and I am much more at ease with verbal outreach.   I love interacting with people and find that face-to-face for me works best – I will go out of my way for face-to-face meetings where at all possible – and my favorites are over food and/or drinks.  🙂
  6. Be genuine.  Reaching out to most people are usually when you need something.  Let’s face it.  But sometimes, I reach out to people just because I am thinking about them (e.g., ex-collegues whom are now my friends), or if I come across information or something that I think would be of interest to someone specifically.   I’ve had people reach out to me with canned emails around my birthday with the wrong information about me in their database – each time I get these I cringe; in my outreach to my network I try as best I can to personalize everything.   You build a reputation over years and decades… but you can destroy a reputation in a millisecond.   So in my communications I try to be sincere and genuine – and those that know me know that I write / email like I talk…  I try to make email communications personal and as human as possible.
  7. Be responsive.  If someone in my network is reaching out to me (email, VM) I do my best to respond within 24 hours, if possible.   This is similar to a recent post I did on Give and Take — if someone is reaching out to me for help, I want to give them the respect and respond as quickly as I can – I want to recognize them, see them, and let them know that I am dependable.  What comes around goes around.  I am much better at this in my professional life than my personal life.  Just ask my mom or the best of my friends.   😦
  8. Grow your network selectively.  I have done this by:
    • Asking for contacts through existing contacts, friends of friends
    • Joining appropriate groups in LinkedIn or other on-line forums
    • Opening myself up to the prospect of meeting new people at work events, conferences, kids’ school events/ parents of kids’ friends, social gatherings, industry networking events, the person sitting next to me on the plane….
    • Opening myself up to change – a new job, a new place to live, a new role at the company, a new hobby, a new parenting support group…
  9. Use it!   Make it a habit of leveraging this asset – get comfortable with it!!   The more active you get at maintaining and reaching out to people in your network, the more comfortable you will be at networking in general and continuously building upon it and leveraging the power of the people you know – but in a genuine way.

I’ll likely be talking / posting about some or all of the above in more detail at a later time, but I wanted to start my thinking at least at this level and we can go from there.

Any input ladies?  Any other ideas on how to build, cultivate, and nurture your professional network to help with your job/career?

Thanks for listening –

– Mama K

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Staying Sane: Take it in and celebrate the Now


How many times have you heard, “Enjoy it, it goes by so fast.”.   And at the time, it is usually when one of the kids is acting up, or maybe if you’re lucky, the kids are acting like angels and you have a quick chance to catch your breath.    With four kids over 6+ years, I’ve heard this more than I would like to admit.   And yes, I get it.   Of course the years go by fast.   I can see it in my skin, my body, my hands.   The way I get tired so easily.    The way I’m starting to forget simple, insignificant things like the names of bands or actresses/actors.  Yes, the years are going by quickly.   We can see it in ourselves and the way we, ourselves, are changing as people.

And it is even more extreme with children.  Yes, we know time is going by fast.  These little people are pushing that fact in our faces every single day.

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How is this supposed to make you feel better you ask?  How is this supposed to make you feel more at ease?  Doesn’t this kind of create an anxiety?

Not if you choose to look at it from another angle.   Time does not have to go by so quickly.   Instead of grasping at the past and the now, you can choose to let it unfold and celebrate the people your children are becoming.   Time will come and go, but enjoying the Now and celebrating the Now with them, at least for me, has become an amazing way to feel connected to them and proud and excited for what may lie ahead.

*****

My little girl was born over four years ago and she was a bald baby but had enough hair for me to know that she would be a red-head.   She was my first girl.  Her squeaks as a baby were different than those of her older brother.  She was softer.  She smelled sweeter.  She would point to her crib when I would sing to her at night to let me know that she was ready to go to sleep.   She started laughing early… and most of the time it was while looking up at her big brother, who was trying desperately to interact and play with this little baby.

She grew into her red hair quickly.   ..scaling fire escapes before she could even walk…  throwing her body over the bathtub wall fully clothed so she could jump in with her brother.   Growing into her laugh.  Growing into her excitement and her personality and her body.   Feeling thrilled by standing by herself.    And taking those first steps.

And now my little girl is over four years old.   And she still looks up to her big brother.  He teaches her to push herself, and her red hair, feisty personality fuels this desire.   She is so fragile yet so strong, at the same time.  She is caring, intuitive, empathetic, silly, and so so energetic.   She is an artist.   She feels deeply.   And she laughs loudly.   And she takes risks.   And now she rides a bike by herself…. years before her brother did.  This does not surprise me.   The glow in her eyes and the smile across her face is too good to be true.   She is my Red.

*****

So yes, time does go by quickly.   We hear it from everyone and of course this is something we already know.   We do not need to be told this simple truth.  We see it daily through our children.

I choose to spend the Now with the kids and celebrate with them.  Laugh with them.   And of course cry with them.  With the new skills our children learn come the scraped knees, the fear of the dark, the frustration of learning something different.   But it is FEELING this with them that is so, so good.   Such passion.  And how they grow, and how they learn, and how wonderful it is to be a part of it and to see it unfolding right before your eyes.

I choose to not fear that time will go by fast.  I choose not to let the craziness of four kids and work get the best of me, and what I believe are the best years of my life.   I choose to stop and feel the Now with the kids and appreciate the time that I have with them and make as much time as I can with them.   Knowing that I’m doing this makes me happier and excited for what is left to come.

Have a great week everyone –

– Mama K

 

 

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