Building your network while helping others is a two-way street

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The first month of the New Year is an excellent time to meet new professionals or to reconnect with those individuals we have helped or who have assisted us.  During January and February, I will find room in my calendar for at least two dozen meetings over coffee, lunches or happy hours.

I might be one of the luckiest guys alive or the biggest sucker for meeting new people, hearing their personal and professional stories and trying to see how I might lend a hand.  I have been doing this for decades, and I think it is the “curiosity” of being a former news reporter and Congressional  staffer.

These networking / mentoring sessions have made me a smarter, richer person.  More times than not, I receive far more than I offer.

No matter how busy you are, I encourage you to make time for others.  It will benefit you in many, many ways over the years.  Instead of deleting those invitations to trade association, alumni or office happy hours, take a chance and put your best foot forward.

The benefits of networking are endless, but here are some specific ways I am richer for meeting new people or staying in touch with my associates:

There are people I have met over the years who I enjoy getting together with for coffee or lunch and comparing notes about current events, the state of advocacy and communications, or other topics.

  • I needed a contact at a specific pharmaceutical company for a non-profit client and I turned to LinkedIn to see who might work there or be connected to the firm. I emailed a connection (a former client from the past) and within an hour I was emailing with the pharmaceutical company executive in charge.
  • I visited a Congressional contact from some years ago at his current place of employment, and it turns out my agency had a solution to some specific needs of his organization. They are now my second-largest client.
  • People I have helped when they graduated from college or who were between jobs are now hiring managers and I am able to refer promising professionals to them for job opportunities.
  • I went to lunch with a grassroots professional as a favor to an associate who wanted to know if he was experienced enough to teach an online course. I was blown away by his talent. He is now teaching in the program and we have partnered on several projects that benefit the government relations profession.

Here are some of the ways you can get involved in networking and mentoring:

  • Take a chance and attend a happy hour or event with an organization you have wondered about and might like to join.
  • Exchange your business card with interesting people there and follow up via email to see if a follow up meeting might be warranted.
  • Contact your alma mater to see if any students or young alumni need some career guidance or a guest speaker.
  • Tweet or post your professional insights so others might learn from you and your experiences. One of my friend in PRSA is actually tweeting a “mentoring tip of the day” throughout January.

There seems to be a new awakening after the holiday break and a newfound enthusiasm to start off 2016 with some resounding successes. It is not too late to get started.

Mike Fulton directs the Washington, D.C. office of the Asher Agency (www.asheragency.com) and teaches Public Affairs IMC 638 at the master’s level for West Virginia University’s Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) program.

Connect with Mike at mikef@asheragency.com; @hillrat1156 or on LinkedIn.

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