Last week I was asked to meet with a group of staff about building and maintaining a professional network. I thoroughly enjoyed this conversation, and realized afterwards that much of what we talked about also applies to building and maintaining a long-term career. I thought it might be worthwhile to share those thoughts here.
First and most important to building a network and a career—do good work. It all starts here. That’s not too surprising, of course. If we don’t do good work, no one wants to be linked to us and no one wants to hire us. Good work, day after day and year after year is the fundamental basis of a professional network and a long-term career.
Second, help other people accomplish what they value. Volunteer to serve on committees, support someone’s great idea or find another way to bring your good work to someone else’s project. Just like everything else in life, we gain in proportion to what we give. When we support others, we are more likely to be supported. We build careers and networks because of what we give rather than what we are trying to get.
Third, it’s okay to be strategic about your network and your career. Where can you make a difference? Where can you learn a new task or skill? With so many ways to make a difference and benefit our community, find opportunities to both support others as well as help yourself to learn and grow. Make sure to choose carefully where you are going to put your energy and time.
Fourth, use all of the networking methods available to you—social media, professional organizations, local community organizations to name just a few. You have to do the work of building a professional network or supporting your career for the long term. So stay current, and engage with and learn from as many people as possible.
To quote Paul Bloom, a Yale professor of psychology, “We are constituted so that simple acts of kindness, such as giving to charity or expressing gratitude, have a positive effect on our long-term moods. The key to the happy life, it seems, is the good life: a life with sustained relationships, challenging work and connections to community.”
Keep doing your good work—we all benefit!