Strengthening Your Professional Network Can Be Quite The Challenge These Days, Believe It Or Not, It’s Not What You Know; It’s Who You Know That Creates Opportunities To Climb The Corporate Ladder; And For That Reason Alone, You Need To Find A Way To Stand Out.
BUILDING THE RELATIONSHIP
Networking both in-person and online should be a regular part of your day, and the more visible you are, the more noticed you’ll be. It can certainly be challenging to stay motivated to maintain close relationships when most communication is either by e-mail or a video conference. However, at times like these, you really need to think outside the box, especially if you feel disconnected from your co-workers, managers, and the company as a whole. Below I discuss a few options for strengthening your professional network, whether at home or the office. Believe it or not, most employees aren’t aware of all company benefits, programs, events, or workshops. The good news is that most companies offer many perks for employees, so if you are looking to fit in better or connect more with others, do some research to see if any programs are offered for you to build better relationships within your department. Reach out to Human Resources and ask if they are offering any virtual ‘hangouts.’ If not ask, HR if it would be possible to create a virtual space to relax and connect on; for example, setting up a weekly trivia session during lunch or on Fridays, or ’coffee and convo Mondays.’
Think of anything that builds relationships. The reality is that it’s tricky for any company to offer a dynamic, thriving culture during a pandemic, especially if you’re a new company trying to figure out exactly what that culture should look like. If there is anything a company should be on the same page about with a staff, people feel lonely and disconnected. So by getting involved in team-building exercises, attending luncheon invites, and participating in what the company has to offer, you have a chance to put yourself out there. Hence, people know who you are, what you do, and why you are such a valuable asset to the company.
TAKING THE INITIATIVE
Besides providing the initiative to create better connections throughout your company, another smart move would be to start outreach. This could be interpreted in a few different ways; for example, if you know an employee is struggling with a certain project or task, why not provide a lending hand to see how you can help. Just because it is not a directly related to your position or workload, if you can offer insight to help someone succeed, or even offer a job shadow so they can learn more effective methods, why not? Too many times I’ve seen people struggle to accomplish a task as the veterans back away and gossip behind closed doors about their struggle; but by actually helping someone out, you are perceived as a team play and someone people can come to. This makes you more likeable and approachable – a win-win when trying to build your network. Another way to outreach is to reach out to managers and coworkers prior to setting meeting to simply connect and see how everything is going. Sometimes people need an ear to vent about a project or a struggle they are currently facing. This positions you as someone eager to learn and a team player who cares to stay in the loop.
This makes you more likable and approachable – a win-win when trying to build your network. Another way to outreach is to reach out to managers and coworkers before setting meetings to connect and see how everything is going simply. Sometimes people need an ear to vent about a project or a struggle they are currently facing. This positions you as someone eager to learn and a team player who cares to stay in the loop.
Another great way to strengthen your professional network is to stay up to date with the company’s direction. What topics are being discussed? In what direction is the company going? What is the main focus within your department? Get ahead of the game and do your own personal research that could open new doors, especially at a meeting if you can offer new information and insight. This would position you as a valuable member of management. Who knows, you might get invited to more confidential meetings in the future, which could lead to working with top executives, positioning you for potential opportunities and future roles.
If you are working in the office and can create meetings outside, then shake things up and set the next one outdoors, with HR approval, of course. This not only breaks up the day a bit, but if you are stuck in the office having to wear a mask, it allows you to take it off and really create a deeper connection with your co-workers. Pre-pandemic, when I was working as an Admission Counselor at SNHU, my team leader would take us outside for our one-on-one weekly meetings.
It was so refreshing to get outside, and most of us looked forward to the meetings (how often can you say that). Sometimes these outdoor meetings would include walks, emotional outbursts relating to how our workload was, or even a silly game here and there. It sounds youthful, but believe me, if you’re in a position of power, there is no better way to get people motivated or engaged than if you change it up and throw some fun in. That creates rapport, connection, and understanding between employees.
Last but not least, my favorite option for bringing your professional network to discover you is LinkedIn! After noticing how much of a hit live videos have become, LinkedIn is now beefing up their platform with this new feature, which means it is now the perfect way to showcase your talents, what your day looks like. A resume and simple profile don’t have the same functionality to display your personality. Another great part of this new feature is that LinkedIn followers will be notified every time you go live, making it a great way to reach your community and increase your exposure on the platform. This is huge because you connect with the internal work at your current company, and you also get to connect with an external network via LinkedIn. This allows people to see who their co-workers really are and to get to know them a bit. Perhaps you can mix in and discuss what you are working on. It creates more engagement by asking the audience to showcase something they are working on, what they do outside of work or any topic that increases relatability and interest in what you have to offer the world.
Overall, if you’re really looking to stand out in 2021 from your co-workers and make a splash, take the initiative to create company morale, suggest company hangouts, participate in community projects, and go the extra mile to perform additional research on company projects and goals, so you have more to offer in your next meeting. Now you can really stand out in the crowd. The most important aspect of strengthening your professional network is reaching out and putting your face and words out there for all the world to see.