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.

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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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December 12: Keeping up with the Joneses


Another Monday. This one cold and gray. I’m coming off a great weekend with the kids. We went to the library (quite a treat, even for the 2 yr olds), toured closeby neighborhoods looking at lights, and went on another steam train ride.

We started doing the “responsibility boards” with the kids again where you put little magnet “jobs” on the board and the kids and you evaluate their performance on those jobs – if they did well, they get a happy face magnet for that job on that day. Some of the jobs include making the bed, getting dressed, brushing teeth, etc. and we find that these boards really do make a difference in their behavior, at least in the short term while there is still novelty to it.

So this morning the kids were way ahead of me:

Highlights of the Morning and My Commute:

  • Big Bro and I were getting dressed and he came into our room and said he wanted to do a getting dressed race. We’re on! He won, of course.
  • He then came in and proudly said, “Mommy, I already woke up, went pee, brushed my teeth, got dressed, and even made my bed all by myself.” I made a big deal of this and then walked into the room to check his work. He was so proud. I looked over and then also saw that Red did the same with her bed – and also arranged her dolls and put her favorite sleep animal on her pillow. I made a big deal about this too and later when she decided she wanted the animal I walked up with her and noticed her proud smile creeping across her face with each step upwards. By the time we reached her room and her bed, her face was alight with pride and she had to cover her face in her bed with her smiles and her laughter. I both love and hate how these kids are getting so big so fast – on one hand I love to see the people they are becoming but on another hand they are growing out of the age of innocence.

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  • Twin Husky was busy downstairs rolling things. Luggage bags, shopping carts, play strollers. He was just busy busy busy strolling and rolling all over the place and around the downstairs.

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  • Twin Crazy was walking around looking mad. Her eyebrows were furrowed since Hubby reprimanded her for something. She holds a grudge. Her face looked so cute all mad. I talked with her about how she looked mad and how that feels. I’m talking a lot with these younger kids about their feelings and what they are feeling and how even I have those feelings. After spending so much time with the little ones, I think I need to be spending the same amount of time with the 3 and 5 year old too. Sometimes I just assume that they “get it” since they are older but it’s probably good to spend the time on this subject with them too.
  • I took Red to school today and sat with her while she traced a candy cane. I asked her to save it for me so I can see it tonight. She asked me to write her name on it and I said each letter as I wrote it. She also wanted my name on it so again, M, O, M, M, Y. She seemed satisfied with this so she continued her art and smiled at me as I walked away.

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I’m feeling a bit down today. Folks on the ferry are talking about how this area is over-priced and how their going to buy for an investment but only stay 4 or so years until they have kids and find another place to live. This has been such an issue in our family and it is hard for me to accept. What started this funk that I’m in today?? I think I know what it is…

Over the weekend we received a holiday card where the whole card was an array of pictures during a private-blimp tour of the city. Yes, a blimp.  Three generations of the family each with beaming smiles while they were on their own private blimp-ride.  Yes, there are pictures of the grandchildren wearing headphones and pictures of the windows overlooking the city and everyone with big smiles. Yes, it was just them, in the blimp. A blimp.   Did I say a blimp????!?!?!?

The city where I live is essentially comprised of people that “have”, and “have not”. There really isn’t an in-between. And folks/families like ours have to work our asses off just to get by – and not even live lavishly. Mind you, I don’t need or want fancy clothes or a fancy car or decadent vacations. But I would like to be able to afford a house of my own to shelter my kids with a yard where they can play, and not have to feel like I have to work like mad to get there. At 41 and with an MBA, shouldn’t I be able to do this??? So I looked at that holiday card and became less hopeful of the area in which we live and my feeling of just “not belonging.” Mmmmm. That’s a bit deep for now. So not to dwell on things I cannot change, I should focus my energy on what I can change. I can play a pivotal role in how my children develop as people. So I guess it that is where I should focus my energy going forward, right??!!? Right.

Today at work I have some clean up items to begin with my client deliverable but honestly the rest of the day is a bit scattered. I will take this time to clean up some loose ends from our last forums and set myself up to start the planning for the next forums happening in April.

Highlights of My Working Day:

  • We had an hour team sales meeting; during this time I updated the team on the sales efforts I am leading. I spent time talking about how I am trying to generate incremental revenues from the forums I am managing — the two forums are very different in nature and I am using different strategies to generate sales for each (selling new services to existing members, versus gaining new clients to grow membership). I speak with authority during these discussions since I own the forums and associated sales efforts. What needs to happen in the next 4 – 6 months though is to actually CONVERT these efforts to revenue. I need to make this happen so that this reduced work arrangement can be safe.
  • We also had a team lunch meeting where we did a White Elephant holiday exchange. I wrapped up two big stuffed animal dolls that neither Red or Twin Crazy have EVER played with and it was selected by my firm’s CEO. Too funny. I walked away with a pair of comfy wool socks. Especially made for a left foot vs. right foot! I never owned a pair so am looking forward to busting into them tonight (its the simple pleasures in life, right?).
  • I had a conference call with an ex-colleague of mine from 10+ years ago. I’ve managed to stay in touch pretty well with the people I have personally worked with through the years. This has been paying off for me lately. I am able to leverage them to get closer to business opportunities and now this friend/ex-colleague has come to us with a very interesting idea for another forum we can possibly create. It is an interesting idea, and potentially one that could change the industry over time if it works and works well. My Director is pretty excited by it, and we have the right contacts at other organizations to help push this idea further. This could be something big… and something that came about for our Firm because of my network. I want to see this happen and if it does, it can be big for me and my credibility within the company and maybe even the industry. DREAM BIG!!!

I spent the rest of the day doing admin-related items; tomorrow my day looks very free so I will be able to put my head down and actually do some work.

The Rest of My Day:

I’m on my way now to an appointment. So I’ll be late seeing the older kids tonight. Again, I’m not in a great mood. At any rate, I’ll close out this day with a Guinness for my dinner and hopefully will be able to talk to Big Bro and Red tonight before they go to bed. And then I’ll put on my new socks and join their slumber in my own room.

Till tomorrow –
– Mama K

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