At the WAND conference I spoke on Self-Empowerment for Dietitians. One aspect of my presentation was on the importance of networking and making professional connections, both internal and external. This applies to all professions.
Although networking is necessary, we need to do more than simply give out business cards. We need to connect with the people we are meeting. People like to do business with people they know, like, and respect. This article focuses on the why and where of making connections with people so that they know at least a little bit about us and we know a little bit about them. And, of course, these need to be positive connections.
It is necessary to make internal connections if we are to succeed and advance within our company. If people do not know who we are, what we do, or how good we are at what we do, we won’t be considered for promotions and advancement. Of course, we need a connection with our supervisor. We also need connections with our supervisor’s supervisors. We need connections with our co-workers. We need connections with people in other departments. We might also be in the situation where we need connections with the company’s customers and suppliers.
A goal is that if anyone at your company were to ask, “Who would be good at/for….” someone in the room would think of you and offer your name for consideration.
We also need to make external connections, connections outside of our company. One example is professional connections. A great way to do this is to become involved in local, state, and/or national associations related to our profession. Many of us have more than one profession. For example, professional associations that have reflected my career over the years include dietetics and nutrition, healthcare foodservice, speaking, and writing.
The more people that you have a connection with in associations that reflect your profession or professions, the more likely that your name will come up when there are opportunities outside of your company.
Another consideration for many is to go to where your customers, your potential customers, and people who know your potential customers are and make connections. This might be outside of your profession. It can be advantageous to join professional associations that are not directly related to your profession. Who are your customers? What associations do they belong to? Can you join? If your customers are primarily women, are there women’s associations or groups that you could join?
The old saying, “It’s not what you know but who you know that counts” has some truth in it. The good news is that you have control over who you know, who you have a connection with. Take the initiative and make the internal and external connections you need to succeed.