The power of networking: how networking can help boost your career

Published on: 12 Feb 2024

Networking is the cornerstone for any budding project professional looking to carve their path in this dynamic field. It provides a platform for us to connect, learn, and stay abreast of the latest industry developments. Whether you’re exploring new career opportunities, looking for advice, or aiming to establish meaningful connections, networking has a pivotal role in career development and job searches.

networking

Why you need to build your network

Networking is important because it allows you to stand out from the crowd and get in front of new opportunities with potential employers. While it can be daunting for some of us to think about going up to someone we don’t know and saying ‘hello’, it’s an invaluable gateway to forging lasting and meaningful relationships in a short time. And here’s a secret, the first time you say ‘hello’ to someone you don’t know is the hardest – few people find it easy to do this! But as time goes on, and you keep going, you’ll gain confidence that makes it a lot less intimidating.

Attending project management events or specific networking meet-ups can also lead to unexpected opportunities in your career journey. When you go out of your way to make an introduction and build a connection with someone, you’re developing your own reputation as a reliable, supportive and knowledgeable professional. Perhaps someone you’re speaking to at an event will remember you and mention your name when someone they know is looking to hire. Engaging in conversations and building rapport with a project director for example, may eventually land you a job opportunity that aligns with your aspirations. There are so many possibilities and they seldom arise by chance; strategic networking can unveil remarkable prospects and make your job searches that little bit easier.

Where to network with project managers

The essence of networking lies in building relationships founded on mutual trust and support. It’s not just about amassing contacts but fostering genuine connections that can be mutually beneficial in the long run. There are lots of ways to connect with other project professionals, on LinkedIn, the APM Community or webinars for example. But networking isn’t confined to online interactions; in-person events hold immense value. The human element in face-to-face interactions fosters deeper connections and facilitates meaningful conversations.

The Association for Project Management (APM), being a hub for project management professionals, organises lots of events, online and offline, that are a treasure trove for networking. The APM Branches and SIGs play a crucial role in providing these high-quality events and thought leadership. They offer opportunities for networking and learning about the latest developments in project management within specific regions and interests. These events serve as ideal platforms to meet like-minded peers, industry experts and potential mentors. Fostering connection by taking advantage of these events can amplify your career and improve your job searches. You can find dedicated student networking events and meet ups on the APM events page.

What’s more, the APM Branches and SIGs are ran by volunteers. Volunteering with APM is a great way to network, get involved with the wider project management world and build relationships with experts. There are lots of opportunities for volunteering and building connections: you can get involved in organising events and webinars, join the mentoring programme, write articles for the journal and website, offer your thoughts on the APM podcast and so much more.

How to network at an event

  1. Create a plan: Before attending any event, outline your goals. What are you seeking? Whether it’s advice, opportunities, or insights, having a clear objective enhances the effectiveness of your networking efforts.
  2. Choose events based on your interests: It’s important to build your reputation and show your face, but there’s really no point in going to an event where you’re going to be bored and sitting in silence. Think about what you’re interested in to make the best use of your time; it’s better to go to one event you really enjoy and get involved in, than ten events that leave you detached.
  3. Find your own style: We’re all different, so there’s no one ‘right’ way to network. Introverts and extroverts will navigate networking events differently, and that’s completely fine. It’s about finding a technique that works for you and keeps your comfortable. That can be making multiple brief connections or engaging fewer people with deeper conversation.
  4. Build mutual relationships: Think about networking as a mutually beneficial exchange; listen to what someone is telling you and focus on understanding their needs. Establishing reciprocity creates a deeper, long lasting connection that can elevate your networking success.
  5. Foster the relationship: Don’t let the connections you made fade away after an event. Follow up with your contacts, connect on platforms like LinkedIn or the APM Community, and personalise your messages to solidify these newly formed connections. Social media is a great way to stay connected, so remember ask questions and show support for your network by liking or commenting on their posts.
  6. Stay open: Connecting with different people from different walks of life can be a game changer. Personal assistants, IT support and key stakeholders are all important in your network; acknowledging their value and guidance will help expand your network and find future opportunities.

Practical ways to make the most of networking opportunities:

  • Approach every conversation with an open mindset, recognising the potential in each interaction.
  • Clearly articulate your goals to make conversations engaging and meaningful.
  • Select events aligned with your interests and research attendees to foster relevant connections.
  • Keep it simple.
  • This doesn’t need to be complicated – they're just people and will most likely say ‘hello’ back.

Networking is a pivotal tool in facilitating career development in project management. Whether volunteering with APM or attending industry events, strategic networking can unlock doors to gain new insights and unforeseen opportunities. By being yourself, maintaining consistency, and showing kindness, networking can be a transformative force in improving your job search and shaping your professional journey.