As a natural introvert, I find that the most effective way to build my network as a safety professional was to become involved within the profession. This is a lot less intimidating because you are interacting with people that already have something in common with you – they do what you do or want to do. Over the years, I have joined lots of groups with varying results and objectives. Here are the 4 things that always work to build my professional network when I am participating in industry groups:
#1 - Get involved
To increase your network, you must get involved within a similar interest group. Selection of a group is the easy part. Actually getting involved by participation within the group can be intimating. Before covid-19, attending a group meeting in person was a good first step toward getting involved. But, attending a meeting is only the first step. Here are some ways to get involved at the meeting once you are there (in person or online):
*Ask questions. Online or in person this is definitely possible. Ask a thoughtful question through the chat or by raising your hand and you can start a conversation.
* Connect with the leaders. Go the next step and search out the organization leadership to find people that know the ins and outs. Take your conversation offline by scheduling a quick call before or after the meeting.
*Start a conversation. In person, this is easy because you literally just have to sit down next to someone. Online, you have to be a bit more creative. But, it’s easy to do it you are smart about how you show up online.
#2 - Learn the basics of the group
Understanding the basics and/or the mission statement is usually an easy start to learn about the professional group. That said, mission statements of any organization will not give you the full picture or group dynamics. So, start with learning how the group operates. Look at its economics, composition, and benefits. A few ways to explore the ROI of any group before you join are:
*Cost. Not only what does it cost, but why? And, where does that money go? Are there tiers of membership?
*Free trial. Like any membership, the groups with the free trials are easy to determine potential fit. If no free trial is available, look at how you can get involved with the group through public events or online webinars before you take the leap into annual membership.
*Perks. You should join a group because there is value to your professional goals, but the perks unique to members can mean as much as the underlying membership itself. For example, a lot of safety and industrial hygiene groups have exclusive events or job boards available to members only.
*Longevity. How long do people stay members? How long do you want to stay a member? What can you get out of the membership once you take that next career move? All of these things matter when looking at whether and how much you get involved with a group.
#3 - Put your hand up
All professional groups and industry associations are always volunteer run. There may be some staff members, but generally these organizations are fueled by people just like. Take this opportunity to help out those people while also doing good for the profession or industry. Here are some easy ways to volunteer even when you are new to the group:
*Ask the leadership. They can always use some extra help and will definitely point you in the right direction if you simply ask.
*Join a Committee. There are lots of committees that tackle special projects, events, or initiatives of groups. This is less of a commitment than sitting on the board, but still a great way to get involved with a dedicated group of people and to maximize your time with the group.
*Contribute. Like writing or speaking? Provide some content that is free to the group and helps you to build your brand. This is a great way to put your expertise to work so that people can start to recognize you at future meetings.
*Run for a Board Seat. Ok, probably unrealistic when new to the group. But, you would be surprised how often professional groups and industry associations will be actively looking for someone (anyone) that is qualified to sit on the board. Why can’t it be you?
#4 - Deliver
As a volunteer or an elected group member, you must step up and deliver. Building your professional network starts with being accountable. These positions are the lifeline within a professional group thus you need to hold yourself accountable. You want to be known as the safety professional that always delivers and wants to help. You can only get that reputation by volunteering to help and consistently following through. No one is perfect, but if you say that you are going to do something as part of an organization and you are newer to the group. Make sure that you actually deliver and communicate through that process with people in the group. This will go a long way toward building your brand within the safety profession and your industry. People will notice and you will eventually become the go-to person.
Not sure where to start? Schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with an experienced coach today.