Though networking is not covered in the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK), one of our biggest and longest projects is managing our careers. With that in mind, it makes a lot of sense to build a strong network. MPS President Kendall Lott recently sat down with three experts in the latest PM POV podcast to discuss how to reframe the networking process and be more meaningful in our interactions.
Many of us serve clients every day, helping to build and strengthen organizations and companies. But let’s face it, we can often be our own worst client. In order to remedy this, Sheila Savar, Founder of the Savar Institute, recommends keeping our desired outcomes in mind in order to more efficiently and effectively get what we need. This requires defining our own project scope with a project roadmap and clear deliverables, such as specific networking events to attend and tasks that will help you connect with the people you want. This also requires investing in research – something we emphasize with clients, but often neglect to do ourselves when attending conferences or reaching out to connections.
Savar also outlines the concept of RONI, Return on Networking Investment, and how being helpful to others through networking functions can make us more credible, approachable, and useful. John Gilroy, Director of Marketing and Business Development at BLT Global Ventures, builds on this by emphasizing the need to be specific. Gilroy suggests asking new contacts what a good referral might be for them as a pragmatic conversation-starter that goes straight to the point. While that question may be too specific for those of us not working in business development, it touches upon an important point that Adam Grant illustrates in the bestselling Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success. Grant, an organizational psychologist at Wharton Business School, asserts that people who prioritize giving over taking are typically more successful in the long-term, in large part due to building stronger relationships and networks than takers.
Finally, Kari Mirabal, founder of The Connection Coach, emphasizes the importance of your LinkedIn profile, which serves as your online personal brand. She outlines a LinkedIn strategy to plan, connect, and grow your online network. Some specific tips she offers are to update your profile with keywords so that others can find you and to engage with the community, which brings the “social” aspect of social media to the forefront.
As with traditional project management, you will be most successful when you approach networking opportunities strategically, well prepared, and ready to collaborate and share with others. With these tips, networking events do not have to be as daunting as they appear – but before jumping in, invest the time to reflect on who are you are, what you can give, and what you need.