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Professional networking tips for prosperous project leaders.

Research shows that professional networks are a critical advantage for project managers to achieve project results. Some of the benefits of cultivating a strong professional network are: 

1.      Having the ability to call an influential manager or technical expert at 8 PM on Sunday and get an issue resolved, without formal authority.

2.      Raise your visibility and possibility of being selected for prime projects.

3.      Knowing who the top talent is to pursue when building your project teams.

4.      Not being first in line to receive a pink slip in your department.

5.      Having a better work environment due to a support network of peers.

6.      Contributing to projects that you are not formally assigned to work on.

If you choose to not build your professional network, then you will find yourself slaving away over your project plans late at night while network-savvy project managers are promoted over you. Professionals have seen the benefit of networking for generations including free masons during the middle ages, fraternities in colleges and international civic organizations. You should take your professional networking responsibility as seriously as your morning coffee and exercise your networking rights.

Here are the top networking tips for Prosperous Project Leaders.

1.      Build your relationships not your pile of business cards. Networking is about building one-on-one relationships with people for your mutual benefit. Networking is not the insincere flattery, "take-my-business-card-while-I-look-over-your-shoulder" activity at professional gatherings which makes you want to dump the business card in the closet trash can. There is no such thing as a substantial network of contacts, without a level of depth to the relationships with the people in the network.

2.      Learn and get to know people that you can help who are not yet at your level of professional success. Also reach out to get to know people who have achieved greater levels of professional success. You can help people who are at different points on professional journeys.

3.      Have the mindset of "Give without keeping score". It seems counter intuitive- yet is in your own self interest because it is too much effort to keep score of "I helped Johnny now he must help me".

4.      Enjoy chance networking opportunities at events. The ultimate networking benefit is to meet people that you would never normally encounter. As a project manager, enjoy networking with people that you don't normally interact with, such physicians and small business owners at service club events.

5.      Network to build long term relationships for mutual benefit. Not for one-night stands. Don't go into it for "This is what I get out of it, and will discard you faster than a used tissue when I see someone who looks more interesting."

6.      Go to professional association meetings and introduce yourself. Make small talk. Sit with people you don't know and learn about them. Take business cards in case you need them, but don't impose your business cards on every person that you meet. Only keep them handy if someone is genuinely interested in getting more information from you.

7.      The best focus for any networking encounter is to ask "How can I sincerely help other people at this event?"

8.      Read books on networking. Many books have been written on this subject, because professional networking is so important. However, make sure that you focus on networking to build long-term professional relationships.

9.      You do not have to be local to network with your project team and leaders within your company. Being a remote worker and part of a virtual team is no excuse for not networking and building professional relationships. Current technology brings people together from all over the world to deliver projects. Use every opportunity that you can to speak with people, ask about their challenges and see if you can help them to find solutions. If you can't do it in person then do it over the phone.

10.  Always be prepared to network. Have something to say while you are thinking of something to say. Be versed on current news issues so that you can talk about them with an opinion when you attend events that encourage networking.

11.  Be aware of how you have developed professional relationships in the past. How can you duplicate the process to develop new professional relationships in future for mutual benefit?

12.  Take a few moments to think about how you benefit and provide value in current professional relationships. If you have this value in current relationships, how can you get the same value in future relationships?

13.  Expand your networking beyond your office walls. Go to professional association events in your city and regional conferences. Volunteer for charity events where you are likely to meet people that could benefit from your contributions.

14.  Although social media is not a substitute for creating new relationships, it is a good vehicle to strengthen existing relationships. Use social media to stay in touch with professional peers and project team members.

15.  Pick up the tab when you ake people out to lunch. Go somewhere nice to enjoy the meal and the company. You learn far more from a millionaire over lunch than the cost of even the most expensive meal. Similarly, you will learn a ton from a lunch with an expert in the field.  I have paid for lunch with professionals in a variety of fields including professional speakers, small business owners and successful consultants. Each meal yielded dramatic return on investments in the information provided during the conversation and the long-term relationships formed.

In summary, enjoy the journey. Networking is fun don't make it tedious. Enjoy meeting people and engaging them in conversation. You will learn from them and possibly even be able to help each other professionally.

Don't worry if your networking efforts don't yield immediate results. They will yield returns over a period of time if you keep on networking and building long term relationships.

There is no time like the present. Build your network now. Who can you invite out to lunch this week?

Copyright 2018 Wayne Botha Email Wayne Cell: 860.214.4897