As a manager, you’re often so focused on the day-to-day tasks and supporting your employees that you forget to take care of your own career. However, if you want to keep advancing, you need to set aside the time to invest in your own development.
Of course, advancing your career isn’t just about getting a new position. It’s also about taking advantage of opportunities that will give you additional experience, enhance your expertise, and solidify your professional reputation. One of the most powerful tools you have at your disposal is your professional network. However, in order to tap into the full power of your network, you need to create an effective strategy. This comprises more than simply reaching out to contacts when you need them. It involves the following steps:
1. Be aware of your perceived value. As Mike Steep points out in his Forbes article “Career Tips For Millennials: Build Your Network,” if you want to make the most of your network, it’s important to know the value you bring to others. If you work for a well-known company, have a lot of prominent contacts, or possess proven expertise in a specific field, people are more likely to consider you a valuable contact and want to join your network and/or help you out. On the other hand, if you reach out to someone who shares absolutely nothing in common with you, then it might be more challenging to establish a relationship.
2. Determine what types of opportunities would most benefit your career. For example, if you’re looking to enhance your reputation as an expert, then you should look for opportunities to present at conferences, speak at colleges, or advise on high-profile projects.
3. Pinpoint contacts who might be able to help you. LinkedIn is especially useful, since you can search for names, job titles, and organizations. If you need to contact someone who isn’t in your immediate network, see if you can find a mutual connection and ask for an introduction.
4. Send a brief, to the point message. Explaining what you’re looking for and how you think this person might be able to help you. Always be polite, follow up with any leads they send your way, and thank them—even if they can’t help you.
5. Reciprocate. Networking is a two-way street. Always be prepared to offer assistance to someone who approaches you with a request.
Even when you’re not actively looking for an opportunity, make sure to share interesting articles, send out updates, and reach out to contacts when they have a work anniversary or get a new job. By regularly investing in your network, you’re more likely to hear about interesting opportunities without having to search for them.
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