November 8, 2010 08:55 AM
Don't wait until your big project is over. Don't wait until your kids get older. Don't wait until after the holidays. And for sure don't wait until you are looking for a job!
Now is the time to get out of your office and get involved in the larger training and performance improvement community. I believe you need to do a little bit of this on an ongoing basis throughout your entire career. I meet too many people who are attending their first professional association meeting when they are out of work. Networking doesn't need to consume your life, but it needs to be a regular part of your waking hours and something you really get on your calendar.
Why Get Involved?
By getting involved, you'll be able to:
- Maintain a presence in the training and performance improvement community. People will see you out and about, and see that you are engaged, keeping current, and thinking about the future.
- Learn what other organizations are doing to confront similar challenges.
- Keep abreast of what your competition is doing.
- Have a benchmark so you can size up whether you're out in front, keeping pace, or falling behind.
- Give back to the community.
- Meet people who may be future employees, employers, clients, colleagues, mentors, and friends.
Ways to Get Involved
There are countless ways to get involved in your professional network:
- Join a professional association.
- Invite someone new to coffee or lunch. It's easy to stay in our comfort zone by surrounding ourselves with people we know.
- Get on a board.
- Be a guest speaker or serve on a panel for a college course.
- Write an article or white paper and submit it to a professional association or industry publication.
What to Do When You're Out and About
If you're going to be a wallflower, you might as well have stayed at home! If you've made the effort to block off time on your calendar and get involved, then you might as well make the most of it. Check out these tips for a few new ideas:
- Do your homework before you go: Learn something about the speaker, review your notes for reminders about people you're likely to run into to, brief yourself on the meeting's topic.
- When you're at an event, show a genuine interest in those you meet, ask an insightful question, share the cool and interesting work you're doing, take a leadership role in a table activity, spread out from others you may already know at the event, bring your business cards, and ask people for their cards.
- If you've volunteered for a committee or board, you'll want to make sure you come prepared, do what you say you're going to do, bring up fresh ideas and new thinking, challenge ideas that aren't in the best interest of the group, build relationships with other members, push the organization to do the right thing, and not cop out because "it's just volunteer work." It's better to not join at all if you can't commit to these things, because if people go away with a negative perception of you, you're actually hurting your career, not helping it.
When You Get Back to the Office
I know ... you have 100 emails and 16 tasks to catch up on because you were out of the office, but don't forget to take just a few more minutes to:
- Record any contact information you obtained and information relevant to your professional certification.
- Make notes about who you met and what you learned.
- Block off the next gathering on your calendar, and write down the tasks you promised to do.
- Take action on those tasks, and find a reason to keep in touch with people.
So don't wait ... get out of your office and get involved in your professional community now!
I'd like to hear about some of the benefits you've received by getting involved or any additional tips you may have.