Building a Personal Network: Pain or Blessing?

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Julie Bradbury
Independent Consultant

You’ve heard people say networking is important, and many trace their current employment to knowing someone in the company. But I believe networking is more than a job-finding tool and can benefit you on several levels. Connecting with other managers in your personal network can improve your ability to

  • present solid business decisions
  • discover practical applications for processes and tools
  • develop innovations
  • create role definitions for special job categories
  • renew your management spirit

Although it can be a pain to initiate, having a personal network is a blessing.

When it’s a pain, you may have to push through.

Publications managers can be introverted people, and the idea of taking the lead to interact with new people is a turn off. Contacting acquaintances and associates to get their help can be equally painful. It’s easier to invent your own solution and ignore your peers. I hope understanding the rewards of staying connected can bring you the ‘juice’ you need to build and sustain a personal network.

Time is another barrier to push through. Networking takes time. You have to schedule contacts, apply and get approval for attending conferences or seminars, and travel. Like exercise and diet, you have to believe in the benefit to persist.

What’s the reward for building your personal network?

Remember the reasons I stated in the beginning.

Presenting solid business decisions

As a publications manager, you make cases for your decisions and your coworkers, and upper management asks questions about them. They recognize your expertise but can feel uncertain because they know little about the guts of technical communication. When you report similar actions or quote best-in-class practices of companies they know, you take your credibility to a higher level. You are framing your actions within a business context. If several companies are taking similar actions, you can show you are part of a business trend.

Discovering practical applications for processes and tools

As you network, you learn more about what’s going on out there; you begin to mine process and tool information from the experience base of your peers. Recommendations and solutions to problems grow naturally. You find out what vendors others use, what organizations they find useful, and what books and articles help them make decisions.

Developing innovations

Conversations spark ideas and sharing ignites further innovation. You can follow up with visits to other groups or offer demonstrations of your work.

Creating role definitions for special job categories

You can discuss job descriptions and special assignments in your group to see where there is commonality and where there are differences. As the industry changes, new assignments develop and the traditional titles of writer and editor fall short of current roles. How have peers solved these issues? What were the results? How can you tailor their jobs descriptions for your group’s requirements?

Renewing your management spirit

Conversations with peers allow you to release the joys and concerns management responsibilities create. The knowing nod and smile can validate you. A frequent comment CIDM Director Dr. JoAnn Hackos receives as feedback on her conferences is the positive experience of interacting with other managers.

How to develop a personal network

Networking happens on the phone, in one-on-one meetings, and at social gatherings, seminars, and professional conferences. You can create your own network by identifying like-interest managers in your company, business area, and professional organizations. Start the process by picking a topic and setting a time and location for communicating with other managers—one-on-one or in a small group. Expand your contacts by signing up for professional conferences. Afterwards, follow up on the phone or in person to increase your opportunity to interact with these professionals. Intensify your experience by recording your results in a networking journal. Note what topics you discussed and what the business or group is doing; list processes and tools; and, most of all, record what you contributed.

You will probably spend some time on social topics but that interaction builds the fabric of networking communication and makes requests easier in the future.

If you haven’t tried networking, I hope you will. If you are already networking, stay connected. Building a personal network rewards your investment and can help you in good or bad times.

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