Have you ever walked into a room full of strangers and felt like you were drowning in a sea of new people? Ever struggled to walk into the room at all? How about finding the right room with like-minded humans in a similar field? What about finding a room at all, given our new social-distancing enforced ways of living? Me too!
This article aims to provide helpful real-life suggestions in terms of not just how to network effectively, but actually where to begin in terms of building that oh-so-important network. I’ve included an array of resources to help get you started and enable you to then network like a pro (hopefully!)
Networking is super important for a multitude of different reasons; It can help you develop and improve your skill set, stay on top of latest industry trends, meet prospective mentors and clients, you may even make new friends with similar goals and aspirations. Perhaps though more importantly networking undoubtedly builds confidence and could assist you in landing that next big role. The latter reason is the fundamental rationale as to why networking is crucial to progression.
The 2019 Job Seeker Nation Survey reports that even though most applicants apply for jobs on a job board or employer career site, 35% found job postings on social media, 50% of respondents heard about jobs from friends, and 37% say they also learn about jobs from professional networks. And according to Jobvite, in 2020 and the post-COVID world, most workers find out about job openings through friends (45%), social media (42%) and professional connections (31%) – see here for infographic. In summary, networking is becoming increasingly important.
Never Burn Any Bridges
Firstly, and most importantly, your colleagues are a great place to start in terms of building your network. These people are within your field and are very likely to know more people within the same arena. They may know of courses and events that you can attend. Reach out to your team and find out how they network. In this era of freelancing and flexible working, your colleagues may not be your colleagues for as long as you think and so, in turn, may become part of your wider network.
Make sure you maintain an active positive working relationship with current and ex-colleagues. Create a network map and a plan.
Understanding the Hidden Networks That Can Transform Your Life and Your Career is a fascinating read about hidden networks.
Two Birds, One Stone
Courses within your discipline are great ways to network and meet others who have a similar background to yourself, whilst also learning a new skill or becoming further qualified in your field. Make sure you stay in contact with your fellow delegates after the course; get their contact details, add them on LinkedIn and include them in your networking plan.
Some PMO/Project Management courses that I would recommend are:
- APM Accredited PMO Practitioner
- APM Accredited PMO Leader
- APM Project Fundamentals Qualification
Use technology to your advantage, especially given our current situation of working remotely. The most obvious go-to platform for online networking is LinkedIn. Make sure that your profile is up-to-date and on-point. Find a handful of relevant people within your industry to reach out to and send them a private message. Join LinkedIn Groups that are relevant to your discipline and get involved in discussions; some PMO/Project Management LinkedIn groups I would recommend are:
There are many networking events out there – just ask Google. You’ll find below a list of networking events aligned to the PMO/Project Management industry. Take a look, some of these events are now offering virtual alternatives:
- APM Events
- Join the PMO Global Alliance
- Network outside of your industry too – here’s why you should
- Women In IT Lean In Circles
Reading is a fantastic way to start learning more about any topic or skill. Below is a list of the books I would recommend that focus on how to start networking and then network effectively:
- Never Eat Alone (Ferrazzi, K).
- How to Win Friends and Influence People (Carnegie, D)
- Networking is a Contact Sport (Sweeney, J) – also as a TED Talk (here)
- Networking Like a Pro – Turning Contacts Into Connections (Misner, I)
- Networking for people who hate networking (Zack, D).
- The Unnatural Networker (Lawson, C).
- Win The Room (Linden, W).
- How to Talk to Anyone (Lowndes, L).
PMO as a network
PMOs are usually the hub of an organisation or a programme. This means that to be successful, the PMO must be a central point of communication and well-known within the organisation. It’s so important that the PMO creates solid working relationships, both within the Business and the wider Project Management community.
No matter the level of PMO (Enterprise through to Project), communication and networking within the organisation is essential to its’ success. From my experience, it can also be extremely beneficial to all involved to foster relationships with the business and other PMOs; sharing knowledge, experience and working together to streamline and enhance ways of working, sharing best practice in order to save time and making those cost efficiencies.
PMO practitioners should be proactive and well-versed when it comes to networking; never burning any bridges, making sure that there is a strong rapport between all stakeholders within their network and solid positive working relationships. PMOs should also use learning and professional development as opportunities to build, develop and enhance the Project Management community, both internally and externally to the organisation. PMOs can also leverage technology (such as using Microsoft Project Online/Project for the Web) to enhance collaboration between teams at work and create an internal network. Collaboration can also be enhanced by the PMO holding central internal events for Project Managers to share best practice.
PMO Practitioners can use the skills galvanised through networking to enhance a company’s internal ways of working. And PMO Practitioners can also apply their ways of working to enhance their own professional network. Either way, network like a Pro or a PMO, and you’ll quickly start to find and own that room!