This is a guest post from Vladimir Gendelman, Founder and CEO, Company Folders. I think you’ll find his advice ties in well with our overall theme here at Purposeful People of taking responsibility for our growth and development. Enjoy!
No one wants to have the same job for the rest of their lives with no room for advancement. That would be a pretty dull life. The hope is to learn and grow with each task and move on to bigger and better jobs. The same skills that help you grow in your career will also help you grow as a person.
An important key to career development is networking. People who have been where you are (or are in a place that you one day hope to be) can serve as mentors to guide you. In addition, networking can help you build connections that come in handy when you are seeking a new position or need a recommendation. However, depending on your personality, networking can be difficult or intimidating. Here are five tips to help you get started and advance your career to where you want to be.
1. Join a Business Association
One of the great things about business associations is all of the members share the same common interest you do, so it’s a great icebreaker for meeting new people in your field. Some associations and organizations are specific to your location or niche, while others are more general. There are also some organizations exclusively for women or minorities.
There can be fees associated with joining, so be sure to take that into consideration when researching which organizations are right for you. Other things to consider are the size of the group’s membership and other benefits included, such as group discounts, training/education and political advocacy.
Joining a business association or organization is ideal for boosting your career development because it can easily connect you to various people and tools to advance, whether it’s through training or education or mixers with other members. You can use that connection to find a mentor or establish other professional relationships.
2. Go Online
Connect online to all of those people you met through the business association and attending conferences to continue the great conversations you started. Join group pages related to your niche on social media as well as your business association’s page. Email them letting them know it was great to meet them and set up a time to meet for coffee or lunch. Send requests on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter to connect with the people you met at those conferences.
To that end, make sure your social media profiles give an accurate picture of who you are professionally and personally. Pictures from an event where you might have had a little too much to drink should be left on your phone and not on your social media. Include samples of your work or links to your website.
3. Improve Interpersonal Skills
Just like public speaking is a good skill to have for career development, so are great interpersonal skills. A major part of networking is building strong relationships. That’s where interpersonal skills come in.
Work on being an active listener, and make sure you work well in groups. Be mindful of your body language, and don’t talk over people. Don’t forget basic skills such as a firm handshake and looking people in the eyes when speaking to show your confidence.
Developing a great connection is about what you bring to the relationship more than what the other person can do for you. People want to work with authentic and genuine people, and if you’re only there to find out what’s in it for you, they’ll know. Have a positive attitude, and leave the complaining for close friends and family.
4. Attend a Conference
Conferences are an excellent place to find important people in your industry, as they are typically presenters or keynote speakers. It’s a great way to meet influencers in your field and find a mentor. It’s also a great way to stay updated on the latest trends in your industry, which is a must to boost career development.
Another great way to meet people at conferences is to be a speaker or presenter. There’s no way you can attend all of the presentations at the conference, so why not get the people to come to you? It also builds your credibility. Give the audience custom branded binders with information about you and your brand, as well as extra blank pages for note taking.
Having good public speaking skills is a great characteristic to have for any job, so guest speaking at conferences and events will improve your career development. Be sure to practice your speeches so that you will be able to speak with confidence. Treat your presentation as a conversation, and don’t read off of slides. Record your speaking engagements and post them to your website and social media to expand your reach and grow your brand.
5. Follow Up
Making all of these great contacts won’t do you any good if you don’t follow up. Send an email referencing your previous conversation or sharing an interesting article related to your industry. Be sure to follow up in a timely manner so the contacts don’t have time to forget you. After all, he or she probably met just as many people as you did.
If you want this person to be your mentor, be sure to mention that so they can let you know if they have the time to commit to that type of relationship. If this person is in a position that you hope to one day be in, ask if you can shadow him or her for a day to make sure it’s something in which you are interested. Be sure to send a thank you card, too.
Being happy in your career and its path can have a huge impact on your overall life. People who feel like they have a purpose and their work is meaningful ultimately produce a positive outcome. You don’t want to feel like you are stuck in a rut. That’s why it’s important to set career goals and have a plan to reach those goals.
Networking is a great strategy for professional growth. Like anything else, people are a valuable resource. It often doesn’t cost anything but time to develop a great relationship. If done right, networking can lead to your next new job or promotion as well as a great way to learn and grow within your industry. It can be overwhelming, but hopefully, with these five tips, you have a good starting point.