This is a guest post by Bruce Harpham.
In the project management world, people come and go. In a matter of a few weeks, you can become close with your project team. In some cases, you may see more of your project team than your family on particularly demanding projects.
But what happens when the project is over? Do you see those people any longer? If you are a project consultant, it could be months or years before you run into those people again. Relationships are like a garden – they blossom with care and attention and die when neglected. It’s up to you to maintain your professional network.
4 Reasons to maintain your project network
It is a cliché to observe that modern life is very busy. Here are four reasons why you need to take the time to maintain your professional network. Any one of these reasons ought to be enough on its own. Added up together, you simply have no excuse for ignoring the care and feeding of your professional relationships.
- Contribution. A network gives you the opportunity to help your friends and colleagues when they face difficulties. A 2013 University of Exeter study found that volunteers tend to live longer than non-volunteers.
- New Information. Some of the best project management tips and skills can only be found through your network. Your network can also provide you with valuable skills.
- Job Security. Did you lose your job? Did your project management contract end? You can also ask your network for employment opportunities (assuming you have contributed to your network first). According to Getting a Job: A Study of Contacts and Careers by Mark Granovetter, over 50% of jobs are located through personal contacts.
- Leadership. Serving as a leader is one of the most rewarding activities I’ve ever pursued. Whether you are seeking political office, gathering donations for a favorite charity or pursing another goal, your network can support your goals.
Building your profession-based network
How many project professionals do you know outside of your organization? That is a key measure of the strength of your network. Here are five ideas to start building your professional network. Remember: look for ways to add value before you seek favours. That’s my Golden Rule of networking: find a way to contribute first.
If you don’t know where to start, here are five ways you can contribute to the project management profession.
- Visit your local PMI Chapter. In my region, there are regular presentations you attend (and earn PDUs). You may find volunteer opportunities to speak, organize an event or work on a website.
- Ask colleagues. Ask your colleagues to introduce you to project managers at other firms because you’re interested in growing your network.
- Attend a project management conference. In the UK, you can attend the APM Conference. (Hint: read Elizabeth’s article on how to attend a conference to get ready.)
- Contact project management authors. When you read an interesting article about project management in the press (or a project management publication), send them an email to thank them for their article (or ask a question).
- Enroll in a course. One of my favourite reasons to take courses in person is meeting classmates (and chatting with the instructor). Don’t limit yourself to traditional project management courses either. Consider taking a technical course to strength your Microsoft Excel and Access skills.
Serving Your Community Network
“A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
-Margaret Mead, American anthropologist
Diversity is an important aspect of a strong network. When you mix with solicitors, activists, accountants and other people, you hear new perspectives and ideas. In addition to new information and opportunities, serving your community is one way to make the world a better place. It can be difficult to know where to start networking in the community. Consider these three options and choose one to focus your energy on at a time.
- Education and Teaching. My passion is higher education so I am active in my university’s alumni association. Look for opportunities to support students, serve as a guest speaker at a college or teach literacy skills at your public library.
- Business Associations. Many cities have chambers of commerce and business clubs where people from many industries gather to meet. You can apply your project management skills to help the organization with an event or improve their technology.
- Participate In A Charitable Fundraiser. Does your city have runs to raise funds for cancer research or other causes? That’s a great opportunity to make a contribution and meet people who care about the world.
You already know that networking is important. It’s time to put these ideas into action! Get out of the office and start meeting people.