Building a professional network is a life-long process of being interested and being interesting.
For me that means it is about relationships and learning. I am better at my job and better as a person by being familiar with the academic, personal, and professional experiences and contexts outside myself, my unit, my organization, my state, my country.
All relationships take interaction and nurturing. And they have to come from a place of authentic genuine interest. Like with any friend, to maintain the friendship, you have to be intentional about reaching out and checking in. There is also an element of just-in-time... so, I try to post in my various social media outlets what I am doing, so that if someone in my network happens to see it, and happens to be interested or curious, they can reach out. I will also occasionally share some things directly with individual people that I know might have a specific interest in something I am doing, or something I have found that I know they need, or would be interested in it if they knew about it.
So, here are my suggestions for how to network like a boss:
1. Leverage social media: Twitter, FB, and Linkedin
- Follow your rock stars, see who they follow and follow some of them.
- Join groups/chats that interest you. Spend time daily cultivating, and learning and sharing.
- Post stuff you are doing/learning/creating, share stuff to amplify what others are doing that you genuinely think is cool or interesting, ask and answer questions – if you can help someone solve a problem, you strengthen your relationship, reputation, and credibility.
2. Reach out to meet people you find genuinely interesting, creative, innovative, cool.
- Take opportunities to meet people at in-person and virtual events, conferences, or webinars.
- Be authentic.
- When you meet someone interesting, connect with them in Linkedin and follow them in Twitter. And let them know you are interested in maintaining contact/connection, or learning more about something they do, or they said when you met them that you found interesting and want to follow up on.
- Check with your supervisor to see if you can join LOOP https://www.iste.org/companies-and-partners/iste-loop – a networking service.
- Look for opportunities to document what you are doing, and share it.
- Create a blog, podcast, video about what you are doing, and post it – and share it on your social media platforms.
- Present at conferences, events, webinars, twitter chats, online groups.
- If you come across something that would be of interest to someone you’ve met, send it to them. This could be a job, a tool, a resource, a project, an article, etc.
- When possible/appropriate openly license what you create, so you can share it broadly, and so people can adapt/adopt it easily.
- Represent yourself and SUNY well.
- Understand where, what, and how you share.
- Know your audiences, and manage your connections, followers, friends.
- Twitter is public = followers. FB is friends = personal and professional. Linkedin is professional connections.
- Assume that your mom, the chancellor, Kim, your boss, or your professional rock star are reading what you write, and don’t say every random thing that comes into your head. ‘
- Don’t be unkind. No matter how frustrated you may get with friends and colleagues, try not to be snarky or criticize people/things that happen at work. You never know what people are going through…
- Maintain a balance in the “noise” to “signal” ratio both in yourself, and in whom you follow.
- Consider how you represent yourself: Personal (noise) vs. Professional (signal). A little of both makes you relatable and a “real” person. Seek a balance.
- Amplify others. Use your platform to highlight, recognize, and appreciate the work of others.
Networking requires time, authentic engagement, and mutual interests, and cultivating personal relationships.
There is never sufficient time, energy, or resources to do everything one might like to do. One’s own work and organization are the priority, so anything else is extra, and can’t be done at the expense of oneself, or professional responsibilities.
I don’t actively pursue, or initiate collaborations or partnerships per se, I focus on relationships that are genuine, and where there is mutual (personal professional and organizational) benefit. Opportunities sometimes emerge from that. I also decline lots of stuff. I have interests in particular topics, areas of the world, and a keen desire to hang out with people that I like (that find cool or interesting in some way) – I cultivate those in ways that I can without too much difficulty or too much effort.
What do you do to cultivate, sustain, and grow your professional network?
Some networking opportunities I had this year and how they came about:
- A request from OLC for recommendations for the new cohort of IELOL global reconnected me to friends from UNISA and resulted in my delivery of a keynote presentation “Online course quality with OSCQR (tools and processes).” This event included faculty and staff from the University of South Africa (UNISA), Durban University of Technology, University of KwaZulu-Natal, and University of Pretoria on June 29th, 2021.
- A long standing friendship with a Fulbright Scholar, Dr. Alla Nazarenko, from Moscow State University, who came to SUNY to learn more about online teaching and learning in the 1990’s resulted in a trip to Moscow in 2001, and many subsequent invitations and presentations at various events in Moscow, most recently I delivered my Open Pedagogy presentation for the event “Topical Issues of Linguistic Education in the Era of Digitalization” Lomonosov Moscow State University” on June 7, 2021.
- A friendship with Dr. Ingrid Day, a former fellow NUTN board member, resulted in a collegial friendship/connection over the years, and I most recently delivered an invited keynote presentation for her institution, the Australian Institute of Business, at their “Teaching with Technology Day” – 3 (open pedagogy) recipes presentation on February 3, 2021.
- A delegation from GMIT visited SUNY to learn more about our online teaching and faculty development approaches, models, resources, resulting in their adaptation of OSCQR and many of our online community of practice approches, and resulted in a connection and friendship with Dr. Carina Ginty, which then resulted in an invitation to deliver a Keynote presentation for the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology, Ireland (GMIT) – 3 (open pedagogy) recipes presentation. on January 22, 2021. https://www.digitaled.ie/webinars-events/ & http://www.digitaled.ie/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/GMIT-3-Recipes-to-Sucess-with-SUNY-Jan22.pdf.
Social media links:
- https://twitter.com/alexpickett/status/1412844934907019264 – example of a current twitter discussion i am having.
- https://twitter.com/courosa – interesting inspirational educator
- https://twitter.com/ericstoller – rock star in student supports
- My criteria for whom I will follow in Twitter
- Example of a FB post the results in networking. – see the first comment on this post.
- Boundaries blurring between the professional and personal and why I don’t have separate social media accounts.
- Some interesting people to follow.