By Ann Marie Walker, Career Services Advisor/Workshop Specialist
In part one of this four part series on Transitions, I talked about the need to start at the beginning and assess where you are, what you want to do and how that fits into the current environment in your field. The main focus was to be able to establish a plan to meet your career goals.
This article is about “keeping up and keeping connected”. When you identify your areas of interest and assess how it aligns with your expertise, you’ll be able to identify any gaps. Here are some of the questions you may ask yourself:
- Is there a skill you need to learn or enhance?
- Are there questions you need to ask people in your field or one that you would like to pursue that will help you gain a better understanding of the current environment?
- How are you growing (or not!) skills-wise, field-wise or in other ways?
- How can you align your experience so that you can continue on a proactive path towards a successful career?
- What is expected of you?
- Where and what do you need to do?
A critical piece for staying connected is the ability to network effectively and consistently. It is not a comfortable role for many of us but as the saying goes, “Practice makes perfect” – or at least makes for a much more comfortable situation. Following are some Networking Tips that will help you get on the road of practicing for yourself:
Join a Networking Group
If you’re reading this, you’re already connected to a great organization! If you’re not actively involved in networking organizations, I urge you to do so. The August Group, New Horizons and RochesterWorks’ own Job Network are just a few. Join a committee, attend meetings, help out at events, start a discussion group. Become involved with a group of individuals that understand your field and have the same passion for it. They also have the same issues and concerns. Talk to them and get their feedback on how they met the challenges we all face as we strive to meet our career goals.
Don’t stop at one networking group, look at general networking groups such as Digital Rochester or ones dedicated to those in a particular field, such as QUEST for those in Human Resources. Join other professional organizations. For example, if you feel you need to develop your public speaking, join Toastmasters.
A great way to learn new skills is to volunteer. Volunteer organizations WANT you to succeed and will do everything they can to help you so you can help them! You’ll give back to the community, meet people you wouldn’t meet otherwise and learn new skills. Volunteering is a great way to grow your transferable skills such as leadership, project management and teamwork. It also shows potential employers that you are out there being active, keeping current and building skills.
Tell Your Story
Many of us are uncomfortable talking about ourselves and our work. It is not easy to communicate what you want and need to say in a succinct manner. People cannot help you if they don’t know that you need help or if you can’t tell them what you need. I’ve seen many situations in a networking group where it was unclear just what someone needed and as a result, they missed an opportunity. Pair up with someone and practice asking for what you need. Be vigilant and look for opportunities to connect with someone who may be able to help. Return the favor and listen to what they need. It’s a great way to hone your listening skills and to gain feedback on how well you communicate what you want.
Keep Current in Your Field
- Read periodicals, magazines, and articles about what is happening in your field.
- Check out the business page daily. It’s a wonderful source of information on new businesses, growth in established businesses and upcoming business events. You may find that a company you wanted to work for is now going to be hiring or that there’s an event on a topic that is of interest to you. Who knows who you may meet?
- Pay attention to what is going on in your company or companies you are interested in joining. Try to understand the “big picture” and what that may mean to you.
- Volunteer for a project that will give you the opportunity to gain a different perspective, learn a new skill or meet others in your field outside of your daily scope of interactions.
- If you are interested in a new field, research what is happening in your area and see if you can connect with someone to gain their insight.
The key to becoming skilled at networking is to work at it…all the time. Don’t limit yourself to your current field, company or sphere of influence. Step out of your comfort zone. Many times, we find the answer we are looking for by connecting with people who aren’t in our particular field. It’s those conversations that may lead to information or connections critical to our career goals.
We’re all busy, with family, work, commitments and our day-to-day responsibilities. Networking takes time, it takes practice and it takes commitment. However, it’s a vital part of being able to successfully attain a career that challenges us and allows us to grow.
Having the best skills and experience in the world won’t get you where you want to be if no one knows what you have to offer. Choose to keep connected. Have conversations, research, volunteer and tell your story. Don’t be caught unaware of the changes that are happening and the actions that need to be taken.
I’d invite you to choose one or two of the suggestions in this article and give them a try. Stay tuned next week for part three in the series, which will talk about taking action and setting the stage to make a career transition.
Ann Marie Walker is the Workshop Specialist at RochesterWorks. She is also a Coach/Consultant in Fairport, NY specializing in Personal and Team Development, Career Counseling and Motivational Speaking. A Registered Success Team Leader, Certified Professional Behavior Analyst and Qualified Administrator of the Myers Briggs Indicator. Using her extensive experience in the corporate and private business sectors, Annie works with teams and individuals to achieve their goals by developing alliances and promoting crucial conversations.