Build community at all stages of your career

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We are currently onboarding two new staff members to TVP Communications. In showcasing both our communication and marketing networks, I also spent a lot of time reflecting on how I have built my relationship with various communities over my career. While the tactics have varied depending on my career stage and overlap with my professional development efforts, there is one constant: being part of the community takes work and intention. Here are some of the ways I’ve built and maintained mine:

Make the most of local events and opportunities. More and more, I hear from co-workers that attending mixes and networking events supports and fulfills their need for industry-based conversations, especially as many of them adapt to the Work at home. If you’re worried about the cost of membership and events hosted by professional organizations, note that many associations have non-member rates to attend their events. For early career colleagues, it is worth inquiring about recent graduate discounts to potentially reduce or offset the cost of attendance. And these events are great entry points for building relationships within communities of learning and practice.

Likewise, check with your alma mater and local alumni association chapters to see if they have a marketing and communications subset among their membership. You may find events and contacts for our industry near you or available remotely. Consider contacting a nearby institution for the community; a college near me (not my alma mater) invited me to attend their journalism alumni events. I’m sure their hope with the invite is to get me interested in mentoring students, hiring graduates, possibly pursuing another degree, or inquiring about teaching a course or two. Whatever their motivation, they extend their community to me and I have taken good note of it.

Attend conferences. Conferences seem to get a bad rap these days, in part because we’ve all been to conferences that didn’t meet our expectations based on content or speakers. Therefore, choose your events carefully. For example, I sit on the conference committee for the American Marketing Association Symposium for the Advancement of Higher Education and we are reviewing the hundreds of submissions to organize a conference that we believe will meet the expectations of our industry. Similarly, the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education has a designation for speakers who receive at least ten stellar scores and they highlight these experts at their events. My suggestion is to research and sign up for quality content. Once there, focus on the content and opportunity to build community.

I conducted a quick and unscientific investigation Twitter survey to ask why people attend conferences and the most common answer, accounting for 50% of votes, was for networking and community. It narrowly beat out the opportunity to learn something new (45.8% of responses).

The survey results didn’t surprise me, because my favorite thing about attending conferences is meeting and catching up with my colleagues. I still remember attending my first American Marketing Association Colloquium 17 years ago. I was intimidated by those my mentor introduced me to and yet they continue to be among the most influential and close colleagues in my career. Those I have met at AMA since have helped me complete my network and become personal friends. The same can be said for other conferences that have become my favorite networking events.

To be involved. ; Each of us has expertise, insights and experiences from which others can learn. While only 4.2% of respondents to my survey said they attend conferences to share their expertise, these respondents provide the content that 45.8% of us want to hear. And consider getting involved in local, regional, or even national associations as a volunteer, committee member, or board member. You may be surprised to learn that you represent a key demographic that associations would like to hear from, just like I heard recently of the Public Relations Society of America. The first step is to let others know that you are interested.

Social media as connector and community. My mantra for my colleagues today is that if you’re not paying attention to academic Twitter – and its marketing and communications subset – then you’re missing out on conversations, connections, and community vital to your career. A number of my colleagues are people I first met on Twitter and then met in person at a conference or other event. And still others I consider close contacts I’ve never met beyond a Zoom screen or our outside of our online chat.

The companion community on LinkedIn is also important for engaging marcomm colleagues. While many of my relationships between the two social platforms overlap, there are additional voices and perspectives that are unique to each. I often check the profiles of close contacts to see what groups and topics they follow so I can join new conversations, connect with others on issues that matter to me, and learn more about our industry. In addition to giving someone a like or celebrating their professional accomplishments, LinkedIn posts allow you to chat and connect with members of the community you’re building.

Finally, remember that networking is the first step. From there, it’s up to you to create the community. I did this by mixing and matching the above approaches to developing and maintaining my relationships. Do not hesitate to contact me on Twitter and LinkedIn and I know that I will be WADA and PRSA in November, so if you’re looking to make a connection, please introduce yourself and I’d be happy to help get your network moving.



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