Monday June 18, 2012
By Alison Straw, learnpurple associate
In the lead up to the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, I surprised myself by being caught up in the 'jubilee fever'. I splashed out on bunting, joined my neighbours for a street party and was transfixed by the scenes in London. I genuinely felt part of something and enjoyed it. It reminded me that having a sense of belonging is important to us, with much research over the years demonstrating this. However, with our transient lives and movement between organisations, how do we achieve this? For me, this can be constructed through our networks and networking by following the 10 steps below:
1) Understand your networks
Our networks evolve through association, and associations are developed through a variety of circumstances such as attending the same school, living in the same area or working in the same organisation. Do you understand your network, who’s in it, how it’s grown and how you can develop it to benefit you?
2) Networks can benefit you!
Whether your networks exist for information, professional development, support or influence, make sure that they benefit you. Understanding your network will give you some clues about how you have used it in the past. For instance, you may have been very happy to ask for a recommendation, or for information, but you may have been the person that’s supported others in their careers. Be conscious in your networking from this point on to ensure that your networks benefit you.
3) Start close to home
Many people concentrate their efforts on their organisational networks, overlooking their personal network. Think about who is in your personal network, how it has developed and how it could be developed to support you. Remember that personal networks may benefit you professionally.
4) How well connected are you within your organisation?
Being well connected in your organisation is important. You obviously need to have a valuable skill set, a track record of achievement and authentic behaviours that support the values of the organisation. However, without people in your professional network who know what you’ve achieved and the valuable contribution you’ve made, this can be lost. You need to challenge yourself to become your own advocate. Think about which projects would give you the highest profile and which people could be your greatest support – and connect with them.
5) Use professional networks
Professional networks are all about the connections you make and the potential they have to fuel your development. Often people are passive within their professional networks - receiving newsletters, attending events and conferences. However, you can use professional networks to your advantage. Use them to gain a platform, a profile or a valuable connection. Think about how your professional network can serve you best.
6) Think ahead
Networks are not just about today but tomorrow. In terms of your career you should be thinking about performance and perception. What do you want to achieve, what are others interested in and what will help you in the future? Most importantly, in terms of the future, you need to think of who will be able to support and develop you.
7) Use technology
Technology is a great tool if used correctly. Prospective employers will gather information about you from a variety of sources – so what impression will they get? Be clear about how technology can support your aim and be proactive in developing links and building your profile.
8) Develop networking behaviours
If you are not comfortable with networking then you need to start by giving yourself small challenges. Identify someone you want to connect with and think about how you might represent yourself in a meeting with them or attend an event you’ve always managed to avoid. If you are comfortable with networking then you need to develop your network to benefit you. This could be as simple as asking specific questions, or favours, of your network contacts.
9) Create visibility
Becoming visible is an important part of networking and this visibility can be in person or electronically. If you start with an end point in mind you should use all the resources available to you to create visibility. Comment on an event, write a blog, attend a seminar, ask a question, write a letter or just make contact with a colleague.
10) Keep reviewing your network
By their nature networks are dynamic, so do keep reviewing them. Be critical of the drain they put on you or the benefits they bring. Also review your networking skills – what works for you and what feels clumsy and needs further development. Don’t review once; set a date with yourself at least every six months to review your networking and networks.
Creating your very own jubilee spirit is in your hands, if you want a sense of belonging take control, focus on what you want and it will reap untold rewards.
Do you feel you are well networked? How well developed are your networking skills? How does your organisation build on networks?