Developing & Nurturing Your Network

Vanda Ametlli – Great Lakes Region Vice President/ Henry Ford Health System

A reoccurring discussion at many of the IIE Applied Sessions at the Annual Conference in Orlando, Florida was intrinsic/extrinsic motivators as they apply to our careers.  Our experiences, upbringings and relationships often times serve as the foundation for what drives us.  A few years ago as a student chapter leader, I was often told to take advantage of these “networking” opportunities that exist within IIE and especially at National Conferences. I’ve have been fortunate through my university and current employer to attend three IIE National conferences at different points in the college to young professional transition, which has allowed for growth and improvement on how to approach networking. An aspect of networking that often gets overlooked is the follow-up to build and nurture those professional contacts.  As you reflect on your experience and lessons learned from the conference, make it a priority to set time to follow-up on all the business cards you have collected. The question for many young professionals is how exactly to approach follow-up? Through the years and endless networking events, I have developed an approach that treats this as a process. The first step is to develop an excel sheet that you use as a tool to manage your interactions. As you go through all your business cards, enter key contact information along with a way that you want to track contact. As you develop and look at the contacts you sought out, it is important to ask yourself – why you are following up? I know from attending my first National Conference in Miami, I followed up with every contact but without having a clear direction on what I was expecting from further developing my professional network. A lesson learned through the years has been to categorize my contacts in groups to help with management and frequency of contacts.

-College Students/ Soon to be Young Professionals (Sometimes, we might not see the value in developing relationships with students/young professionals because they might not be “experienced” enough to provide guidance.  However, connecting with a group that is experiencing similar experiences is beneficial in knowing that you’re not at alone and we all face very similar challenges no matter what industry we come from.

-Industry Relevant Contacts – As you narrow your focus to a specific industry or IE area (i.e human factors, IT Infrastructure), it becomes important to know specific industry relevant individuals that can share guidance on their similar efforts, provide insights on future of select industry.

-Non-Industry Contacts – IE has the advantage of being applied to so many industries. At times, we get wrapped up in developing networks only with individuals within a network and forget that cross-industry collaboration is just as valuable.

-Academic Contacts – Academic Contacts always provide you with the opportunity to learn about research areas and establish connections with faculty near your proximity that you could potentially  collaborate and even work with on future

-Vendors – As you look for creative technology tools to aid in your analysis, it is important to understand and trial different types of software that might be available.

 

Once you have categorized your contacts, it is time to start contacting them because after all you worked on making that initial contact and why would you want to waste that business card and why not capitalize on the connection? Communicating should not be complicated.  It should however be timely! A quick email, phone call, LinkedIn invitation/message is an easy ways to reach out.  Make the message personalized. Don’t depend on a mass email to reach out to your new network.  As special as you are, don’t assume everyone remembers you, make sure to include a brief bio on your background and what you would like to be in touch with the individual you’re reaching out in the future. Most importantly, keep those follow-ups and contacts regularly. Check-in on your network.   It often becomes difficult to prioritize maintaining our networks but make it a priority.  Allow yourself at least one hour a month to assess and follow-up with your network. It might just end up that one hour might be an investment in your future, career and everlasting friendships!

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