Sure You Can Manage, But Can You Network?

When it comes to project management, odds are you have the skills to get the job done at this point. But, do you have the skills to get a new job? To make new contacts? In other words, do you know how to network?

One thing you have to give project management blogs credit for is creative names, which is why How To Manage a Camel caught our eye. It’s published by Arras People, a UK program and project management firm.

Of particular note is its blog post, Project Management Graduates – Networking Advice. Don’t let the title fool you. Anybody, regardless of where they are in their career, can benefit from the tips handed out.

Lindsay Scott, who is a director of Arras People, wrote the post after attending a Careers Fair for University College London’s Construction & Project Management faculty in Central London. She said, “The main observation of the night is that many of the students will have to pay attention to their soft skills development too. If they are looking for work in construction projects – the academic knowledge they’ve acquired is obviously only one part of the story. For a new graduate, being able to demonstrate that you are ready to work in a professional environment, regardless of the role you’ll be performing, is the first thing employers will be looking for.”

Scott then shared some observations about the networking (or poor execution of it) she observed that night. Remember, her observations are not just for project management students (or those studying for their PMI certification here in the United States). They are for everybody who wants to be better at networking.

Her observations (winnowed down not to include just grad students):

Eye contact – maintaining eye contact throughout the conversation, some were shy, some looked bored!
Holding a conversation – a list of questions from some students, but difficulty in maintaining a flowing conversation.
Enthusiasm and passion – this is your career, if you’re not passionate and excited about it, why should I or anyone else be?
Speak clearly and at a good level – in a noisy careers fair you need to be heard. Don’t appear timid or shy (even if you feel like it!)
University College London had a handout with some excellent advice. Clicking on the Camel blog link above will bring you to two photographs that show the handout.

The advice is directed to job seekers but isn’t that what all networking is about? Even if you’re not actively seeking new employment, it never hurts to keep abreast of who is hiring and what opportunities are out there.

Here is some of the especially noteworthy questions suggested to ask:

What are the most important current issues in your area of expertise? Allows you to sound up-to-date when talking with others.
What’s the best way you find to keep up with issues in your area of expertise? Puts you ahead of the curve if you are doing your homework.
What do you enjoy least and most about your job? That’s an especially brilliant question for anybody to use in networking. It’s a good way of discovering new best practices you might incorporate into your current job.
Is there anyone else who you think it would be good for me to speak to?
Can you give me some top tips for working in your area? That’s a great ego booster because successful people like to talk about themselves.
How has your job changed and how do you see it evolving in the future? Consider this market intelligence that could point you in the right direction for ongoing education.

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