While some people enjoy the game of building relationships and sniffing out opportunities, networking isn’t fun on its own. What really matters is building a network that works for you. Here’s how you can do it.
1. Understand what networking really means
Think of a forest. A forest is more than a collection of individual trees — it is a complex ecosystem that communicates, cooperates and shares nutrients.
Likewise, your career doesn’t have to be limited to you. A successful career is based on successfully harnessing the collective intelligence of those around you and building reciprocal relationships based on mutual support and trust.
Your network is more than just awkward conversations. It’s the powerful experience of having a community that opens doors for you – and provides support..
2. Find the type of network that suits you
Traditional networking – attending an event – is bad news for inclusion and diversity, benefiting extroverts and people with flexible schedules.
Fortunately, there are many more networking formats available within government. Here are some other formats that might work better for you:
If nothing matches your needs and interests, you can also create your own network. Jenna Dutton shares her experience of creating the Women in YYC Urbanism network.
3. Build and enjoy your network
At some point, you’ll need to develop the confidence and energy to bond with people you don’t necessarily know.
How to do this is up to you. In a recent Q&A thread, civil servants shared their experiences and advice on building networks in government.
But let’s be more specific. In this article, a seasoned government networker, shares important tips. They are:
- To be present. Don’t play on your phone. Make it clear that you are only interested in contacting the person you met.
- Take an active interest in what they are doing. Learn active listening techniques. Move the conversation to a deeper level and ask good questions.
- First think about what you can give. Humans are wired for reciprocity. Networking shouldn’t be just about taking advantage of others.
- Think of your relationships as friendships. Networking relationships don’t have to be transactional. Although true friendships are not scalable, they are far more valuable than LinkedIn connections.
- Use the mirror technique. Subtly mimicking people’s words and mannerisms is a great way to build rapport.
- Always follow up and be specific in your note. A follow-up is not the same as a request. This can only be a pleasant note. Be sure to include specific details about the person you met.
- Use technology that enables virtual networking. And consider how you will need to adapt your networking style to online formats.
At the heart of all successful networking is empathy and the very human need to connect. As Maya Angelou said, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
If you really want to dive into the deep challenge of building relationships in government, then watch this workshop recording on the lost art of connecting.
4. Remember that networking isn’t everything
“Not everything can be done in a network: you have to be technically prepared to fulfill tasks, duties and obligations to promote and implement transformations for the better good of citizens.
A letter from the autistic colleague you didn’t know you had