By Ashley Muñoz Lopez, MS, CCC-SLP
In this new era of virtual workplaces and physical distancing, many in-person networking events have been canceled or moved to online platforms. These changes only underscore the importance of communication and meaningful interactions through networking. The job market is more competitive than ever, making communication and outreach imperative. Networking can provide socialization, affirmation, and support. It can also lead to industry insight regarding potential job postings and references – something known as the hidden job market. Conversely, we are in the business of providing people with the ability to communicate. It only fits that we work on our communication to build a network and reach our potential.
What do you want people to know – who you are, your passion, and what you are good at? Branding is more than just a title or role you hold. It is your professional reputation, so be intentional! Make sure that you portray your professional brand on your public social media, as well. Companies are looking at these platforms to find out more about candidates and their values. Tell people your story—because if you do not, you may become the profession’s best-kept secret.
Your elevator speech is a 30-second introduction explaining your purpose and your goal. Of course, with every event and interaction, it is essential that you tailor it to your audience. For example, a local organization meet-up introduction will sound far different from an introduction at an ASHA Convention. Always keep it short and remain authentic. Write it out, practice it, and recite it in front of the mirror. First impressions are important!
Find the gravitas to command a conversation with an individual or a group. Whether in a breakout session on Zoom or reaching out to someone via email after an online event. Networking is all about numbers! The more willing and courageous you are to interact with people, the more likely you will make a connection that leads to opportunity. One return after 5 interactions or 20 returns after 100 interactions both equate to 20%. However, the latter is more likely to open more doors. Keep in mind that networking does not have to happen in a formal realm. Building connections can happen anywhere – from standing in the cafeteria line at work to taking the train home. Every interaction has potential.
Exchange information, and be sure to follow up through an appropriate means of communication. Email, direct message, and phone calls are great ways to keep the conversation going and build a healthy relationship. Try to reconnect every few months by sharing an article or asking a question. Offer your assistance on a special project or research initiative to show your dependability and dedication to helping others. Contacts will be more inclined to recommend you for an opportunity if you have worked with them in some capacity. Be prepared to reciprocate the generous reference, as well. Networking is a mutual benefit for both parties.
Networking skills do not come naturally to most people, but you can form deep interpersonal relationships with intent and preparation. These relationships – both in and outside of the field – can help you establish your professional impact and achieve your aspirations. You can step out of your comfort zone and increase your network – all while staying true to yourself and your values. Take these tips, and put them into action. You have nothing to lose and so much to gain!
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