Saasha Reese, Training and Development Specialist
Personal and professional relationships have changed dramatically over the past 20 years and one of the most daunting areas of development for many employees is building a network. However, you are most likely further ahead than you imagine.
To begin building a strong, diverse, intentional network, start by considering your pre-established relationships and areas for potential development. Connections may be fostered in any of or all areas listed below.
- Personal relationships & familial connections
- Direct chain of command
- Peers in similar roles or levels within the institution
- Professional organizations specific to discipline or field (local, regional and national)
- Passion projects or shared interests’ groups
- Communities of practice
- Affinity groups centered around personal or social identities
- Committees or boards that you may serve on
- Local volunteerism
- Faith communities
Once you have evaluated your existing relationships and areas for development, explore and do your research. If you are just starting to get to know a community, attend a few events, read their newsletter, follow them on social media and then spend some intentional time thinking about if this community aligns with your goals and values. Ask yourself, “Do I want to be more like these people?” “What can I learn from them?” and “What can I contribute here?”
After you have decided to connect to a specific community, truly invest. The goal is to curate meaningful, helpful and genuine relationships. The old saying “you get out what you put in” really applies to networking. It can be a bit of a challenge but be brave. Ask for introductions. As you either continue or begin to connect with people in a specific circle, ask people that already know you for an introduction to people that you would like to meet. In the process of developing relationships, continue to ask yourself the alignment questions above to make sure that you are creating the relationships that you desire.
In any new or continuing relationship, you will need to put in the effort and define the needs and boundaries of that relationship. Maintain your network by committing to spend a specific amount of time attending seminars, conferences and creating one-on-one or small group gatherings that extend beyond your initial connection point. Finally, express genuine care. Take note of people’s anniversaries, stressful work seasons and accomplishments, and recognize and reach out to them regularly.