Networking is something that most people have to do when they are in business in order to make some sort of gain, whether that is financial, getting a foot in the door for a job, or getting a sales lead. It is essentially, attending events to meet other people and can also be other things like making online connections for business means, speaking strategically to friends or contacts about your business, or simply mentioning your business or company when you get the opportunity.
However networking is done, it is something that every project manager needs to do. Project managers are and should be for sale regardless of their employment position. Wise project managers are always open to new, better jobs because they recognise that the experience and skills of a good project manager can transform an entire company. They recognise the worth and value of what they can do.
Sure, there can be an extended employment with a company or business, and many project managers start their journey as PM at a company where the role simply creates itself. But, it is important to understand that the opportunities in this job role far outstretch the confines of one company.
Headlines in the media a few years ago highlighted the shortage of project managers across the world. The shortage hasn’t changed too much a few years later.
So, a smart PM looking to make the greatest difference in their industry, and looking to climb the highest in project management within their industry, is and should be a free agent. Despite the need for excellent PM’s across the board, those with the right experience and skill sets should not expect to be headhunted, and instead, need to network and put themselves out there. A survey by LinkedIn showed that a massive 85% of job roles are filled with networking. This is particularly true with project managers because many companies are still new to using project management. So, there are many, many opportunities where a company may not even have a PM on board until they meet you, hear about your strategies and the methodologies and how they work, and realise how much their company could benefit from project management.
So, How Do You Network?
Not all project managers are extroverts despite common beliefs, so, for some networking is daunting. Even to the most outgoing PM, knowing how to network effectively is something to learn. In all instances, as with most areas of project management, it is an ongoing area of improvement. These X tips will help you get a good start in knowing how to network effectively as a PM:-
#1. No Selling, Just Asking
There’s no peacocking to be had in the world of networking. Those that think it is all about sales and selling yourself won’t get very far at all. As a PM you should be trying to find opportunities where there are problems you can solve with your skill set. That means you’re going to have to do a bit of digging, starting with asking plenty of questions. If you go in all guns blazing about what you can do, to a business owner open to engaging in conversation with you, they will close up quickly and move on. Instead, try asking questions and take a genuine interest in what they have to say, subtly showing your knowledge in the areas you do know about, and showing interest in learning about areas you don’t know about all. People love to be listened to, so you’ll instantly be remembered by those you spend time with just for enabling them to converse, rather than talking at them.
#2. Network At Work
Your current place of employment could be rich with opportunities, you just haven’t thought to look yet. As a PM you should already have an excellent rapport with colleagues and management – have you made the most of those connections yet? Nurture and cultivate those relationships and don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. Let those in other departments know you’re open to new opportunities. Speak to senior management about advancing your career. There is nothing wrong with being ambitious, as long as you’re presenting it in an eager and respectful way.
#3. Be Up On Tech
There is absolutely no way that you can be involved in project management and be behind on tech if you expect to have a successful, long-lasting career. ALL companies want forward-thinking project managers and are specifically looking for project managers who are completely up to date on their technology, if not aware of new technology that could benefit their projects. You should be using technology to the network via social media platforms, and you should have a sound selection of technology under your belt to help you with your projects, that you can openly talk about when networking so that new clients know that you’re on top of technology within the PM world. Kanban software, project management apps, time management programmes and sales technology should all be elements of technology you can comfortably discuss when networking.
#4. Be Up On Methodologies & Management Systems
You should have systems, methodologies, and processes you champion. You should be able to talk about those competently and confidently to potential employers when you network. There is a certain amount of jargon within project management, but there’s only so much you can fake. Employers are looking for qualifications like PRINCE2 and PMP so they can feel assured you know your stuff. When networking, qualifications like PRINCE2, or a working experience of lean management, give you a foot in the door, or common ground with employers who already know their stuff. Networking is one thing, but if you want to stand out, you have to be armed with education as well as experience.
#5. Look Good
This sounds so basic, but the era of entrepreneurs, freelance work and working online has bought with it, a ‘wear what you want’ style of business attire that isn’t well suited to networking. First impressions still matter, and it is one thing to bring a bit of quirk and individualism to your outfit with some smart converse or a jazzy shirt, a pop of bright lipstick or some statement tights, but another to turn up in a hoodie and stained shirt expecting people to take you seriously. It might not be fair that we judge each other this way, but it is what it is and if you want to network successfully, you have to look the part.
“Effective networking isn’t a result of luck, it requires hard work and persistence” – Lewis Howes
Networking should be a project management skill every project manager has to learn. There’s a world of opportunity out there, and the only way to gain access to it all is through networking. Start building those connections and finding opportunities, you owe it to your project management career.