This is a guest post by Bruce Harpham.
In the project management world, people come and go. In a matter of a few weeks, you can become close with your project team. In some cases, you may see more of your project team than your family on particularly demanding projects.
But what happens when the project is over? Do you see those people any longer? If you are a project consultant, it could be months or years before you run into those people again.
Relationships are like a garden – they blossom with care and attention and die when neglected. It’s up to you to maintain your professional network.
4 Reasons to maintain your project network
It is a cliché to observe that modern life is very busy. Below are four reasons why you need to take the time to maintain your professional network.
Any one of these reasons ought to be enough on its own. Added up together, you simply have no excuse for ignoring the care and feeding of your professional relationships.
A network gives you the opportunity to help your friends and colleagues when they face difficulties. A 2013 University of Exeter study found that volunteers tend to live longer than non-volunteers.
Contributing to others boosts your well-being and will help you feel more connected to others.
2. New information
Some of the best project management tips and skills can only be found through your network. Your network can also provide you with valuable skills.
Gathering this kind of new information could be just what you need to land a new job or solve a tricky problem at work.
3. Job security
Did you lose your job? Did your project management contract end?
You can also ask your network for employment opportunities (assuming you have contributed to your network first). According to Getting a Job: A Study of Contacts and Careers by Mark Granovetter, over 50% of jobs are located through personal contacts.
Building your career on LinkedIn can help you create a network of professionals to alert when you are on the hunt for a new role — even if right now you are not open to work.
Serving as a leader is one of the most rewarding activities I’ve ever pursued. Whether you are seeking political office, gathering donations for a favorite charity or pursing another goal, your network can support your goals.
Building your profession-based network
How many project professionals do you know outside of your organization? That is a key measure of the strength of your network. Here are five ideas to start building your professional network.
Remember: look for ways to add value before you seek favors. That’s my Golden Rule of networking: find a way to contribute first.
If you don’t know where to start, here are five ways you can contribute to the project management profession.
1. Use professional bodies
Visit your local PMI Chapter.
In my region, there are regular presentations you attend (and earn PDUs). You may find volunteer opportunities to speak, organize an event or work on a website.
2. Talk to your colleagues
Ask your colleagues to introduce you to project managers at other firms because you’re interested in growing your network.
3. Attend events
Attend a project management conference.
In the UK, you can attend the APM Conference. (Hint: read Elizabeth’s article on how to attend a conference to get ready.)
4. Reach out to authors
Contact project management authors.
When you read an interesting article about project management in the press (or a project management publication), send them an email to thank them for their article (or ask a question).
5. Take a course
Enroll in a course.
One of my favorite reasons to take courses in person is meeting classmates (and chatting with the instructor). Don’t limit yourself to traditional project management courses either. Consider taking a technical course to strength your Microsoft Excel and Access skills.
Serving Your Community Network
“A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”Margaret Mead, American anthropologist
Diversity is an important aspect of a strong network. When you mix with solicitors, activists, accountants and other people, you hear new perspectives and ideas.
In addition to new information and opportunities, serving your community is one way to make the world a better place. It can be difficult to know where to start networking in the community. Consider these three options and choose one to focus your energy on at a time.
1. Education and teaching
My passion is higher education so I am active in my university’s alumni association. Look for opportunities to support students, serve as a guest speaker at a college or teach literacy skills at your public library.
You can read in schools, and many programs now offer the opportunity for volunteering in a virtual way. Food banks and education schemes will broaden your network as well as helping you give back to the community. You can help others and teach what you know in a variety of settings.
2. Business associations
Many cities have chambers of commerce and business clubs where people from many industries gather to meet. You can apply your project management skills to help the organization with an event or improve their technology.
Ask, though, before you go in and start telling them they could make massive improvements with a bit more process! See what is working well and what is working not so well. Then gently suggest how your skills could support the association.
They might come out and ask for volunteers for certain aspects of running the association, in which case, raise your hand!
3. Participate in a charitable fundraiser
Does your city have runs to raise funds for cancer research or other causes? That’s a great opportunity to make a contribution and meet people who care about the world.
You already know that networking is important. It’s time to put these ideas into action! Get out of the office and start meeting people.
About the author: Bruce Harpham is the author of Project Management Hacks, a resource dedicated to improving personal productivity. Bruce’s project management experience includes implementing cost reduction projects at a major Canadian bank. Bruce is a bibliophile, world traveler and science fiction enthusiast.
A version of this article first appeared on this site in 2014.