If you do nothing else this year, keep sticking out your hand and saying hello to new people! I’ve said it before and I’ll continue to say it (since it took me so long to get it through my thick head)… your network of relationships is one of your most valuable resources you have. It can open doors for you that you never imagined. It transcends jobs, geography, and other events.
My latest example is from work. When I first got my (former) job as the global IT service desk manager, I immediately got involved with a professional organization known as HDI. My intent was to learn as much as I could about the help desk industry and what it meant to be an effective help desk manager. What I got was so much more in terms of career fulfillment. Recently they’ve grown from the help desk industry to include the desktop support group too. If you’re involved with front line IT support, I highly encourage you to get involved with this group and become a member, an officer, or some kind of contributor. You’ll be rewarded in ways you cannot imagine.
OK, back to the example. Since joining HDI nearly three years ago, I’ve gotten to know a lot of the HDI folks, other chapter officers, and quite a few members. I’ve attended (and spoken) at the last two national conferences, and served as an officer (currently president) for our local chapter. Now as I look forward to our next conference (9 months away) I was approached by our marketing team at my new job. They’ve been looking for ways to get their toe in the door to some of the IT organizations (HDI, ITSMf, AITP, etc) and I have a list of contacts that they want to leverage. It’s like I’m a sales guy and I brought my list of accounts from my successful old job. What a valuable asset. Call me near sighted, but I didn’t think of the friends I’ve been making over the past two years as leads. Even if not directly, some are program chairs for next year’s tracks and can improve our chances of speaking opportunities which increases visibility to the company and our products.
At first blush, this might seem a little cold hearted. “Chuck, are you just making contacts to get more business?” That’s not my primary reason for building relationships. First, I want to get to know a person. People are interesting. The more you talk to someone, the more you realize how much you have in common. Where there are differences, you can often complement each other and build a stronger bond. Since my friends are in charge of finding speakers for next year’s conference, I talk to them to find out what they are looking for an help them find people that may not otherwise have known how to approach the speaker submission process, in turn gaining them visibility as subject matter experts and growing their network. As the network grows, so does the business. See how that works?
Now get out there and talk to (and more importantly – listen to) people!