Why a Professional Network is Important During Any Stage of Your Career
By Shannon Carlson, Senior Marketing Consultant, BlueByrd Strategic Sales & Marketing
Three strategies marketing communication professionals can use to build and nurture professional connections
A few months ago I was the first speaker on a virtual job seeker series called Coffee & Careers talking about how I secured a job three months into a pandemic. At the time, I didn’t realize that was something to be proud of. But now that we are 7.5 months into this thing, and a lot of my friends are still unemployed, I feel blessed to have found something so quickly. In that series, I talked about the many actions I took to eventually land that job. Interestingly enough, I owe it all to my business to business marketing network.
Now more than ever we know that no matter what stage of your career, you have to have different avenues to look for a job other than “just applying on LinkedIn or Indeed.” Why? Because literally everyone and their mom is doing that. Networking can be scary. I’m mostly an extrovert, but I used to be nervous about attending events. Fast forward four years and now I can’t wait! Such events provide the opportunity to build mutually beneficial relationships. Sometimes you meet someone who ends up doing business with you, other times you make a friend and then there’s other times where you just leave with 20 business cards that you don’t need. Bottom line: No matter what stage of your career, you need a network of individuals to turn to.
Let’s talk strategies
1. Getting involved with an organization (Because we all have some much free time—insert eye roll emoji)
But really. This is so important. Finding an organization is the first step to building your network. The cool thing is that there are other benefits to this as well like the educational opportunities that come along with it. A lot of organizations host great speakers and events that help you grow professionally and even excel in your career. Some of my colleagues are involved in more than one organization, so if you have that time then great, but if not find the one that’s best suited for your profession. Here are a few organizations located in Houston that I’ve found to have great networking opportunities.
ANA Business Marketing Houston: Ok, I’m a little biased because I’m the vice president on the board of directors, but still. Because of this organization I’ve made life-long friendships, secured two jobs and learned so much that has helped me be the professional I am today. This organization is the leading B2B marketing organization in Houston and has networking opportunities such as luncheons, happy hours and other events.
Houston Interactive Marketing Association: A great organization that hosts networking events which are solely focused on interactive marketing professionals.
PRSA Houston: This one is targeted to both public relations and marketing professionals.
You get the point. Find an organization that’s best suited for your career path. The events alone hosted by these organizations provide so many possibilities for networking with individuals who can become valuable professional connections who can ultimately help you further your career. You never know who you might meet and you never know who you might help.
2. Taking a step further with volunteering (as if asking you to network wasn’t enough)
Networking is great, but for my overachievers, and those who really want to take it to the next level, you can actually become a volunteer at these organizations. I started volunteering for ANA Houston (formerly BMA) in 2016. I’d attended a few networking events and thought wow this is fun and these people are pretty cool. Then, I was approached by someone on the board about volunteering on the, wait for it… networking committee! What are the chances? So, I got to plan events and had to attend them. Bummer, right? No! This opened so many doors for me. I eventually was asked to be on the board of directors and to be the chair of the networking committee, then I chaired another committee and now I am the vice president. Funny how that works out. Also, while serving on the board, I met an amazing job recruiter who introduced me to a company where I worked for two years. Then, when I found myself unemployed during a pandemic, I started doing project work for another board member who eventually offered me a full-time job. Those opportunities would’ve never happened had I not gotten more involved.
3. Nurture your networking relationships (the no new friends rule doesn’t apply here)
Hopefully by now you are catching on that networking is awesome! But it’s only awesome if you truly understand and utilize all the benefits of it. In order to do this, you need to nurture the relationships that you’ve made through networking. First, you can start by connecting with these individuals on LinkedIn the day after the event. Then, take it a step further by messaging them. Especially with folks who you had truly meaningful conversations with. One of my favorite events to attend are the ANA luncheons. They have a networking period 30 minutes before-hand and this is the time I get to catch up with peers who I haven’t seen in a month or two. Oftentimes I learn something new, but more than anything I hope they get something from me also. Make sure you’re doing your part when it comes to networking. Remember that term I mentioned at the beginning of this post, mutually beneficial?
You’re ready to network
Don’t wait until you’re unemployed to start networking. Start now, so that you always have a built-in network to turn to. The first to be contacted when I got laid off were in my ANA network. And besides unemployment, I mentioned so many other reasons networking can benefit you. Especially if you are further along in your career, you have so much to offer others and opportunities to invest in the next generation of marketers. ANA has a Mentor Matching Program specifically for seasoned professionals to share their wisdom with young professionals. The opportunities are there. You just have to take advantage of them.