A strong, active professional network is a powerful tool in the arsenal of any PA or EA, and there’s no reason why yours should suffer or be put on hold while the majority of us work remotely. Boost your network and enhance your career prospects without leaving home with these 5 top tips.
Networking and relationship building are key to the success of every Personal and Executive Assistant. Making valuable connections with other likeminded individuals and industry influencers can reveal previously concealed career opportunities and lay the groundwork for potential clients, suppliers or business partnerships.
Traditionally, networking takes place face-to-face at events and conferences - but there are plenty of ways to network when you’re working from home which will be useful now, during the Coronavirus pandemic, and also in the future, to save the time, travel and money associated with attending these industry events.
Whether you’re aiming to make the most of newfound free time or looking to balance out some of the loneliness of self-isolation, here are five ways to grow your professional network from the comfort of your own home.
Engage with social media in the right way
Despite the reputation social media has for being a time sink and distraction, used in the right way it can be an effective tool for remote networking. The social media platforms you use for networking will vary depending on things like your job title and location, as well as the types of connections you want to make and what you want to get out of them, so do some research into groups on platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn, as well as career focused Subreddits, to find the communities best suited to your needs.
Once you’re in, make your name known by engaging with other members of the group. Share relevant articles, comment on others’ posts and generally get involved with the conversations that interest you. To get you started, join the SecsintheCity LinkedIn group to connect with over 1,100 PAs, EAs, Receptionists, Secretaries, Office Managers, Administrators and other office support professionals.
You’ll also be able to make useful connections by registering with a relevant membership body like the Institute of Administrative Management or the Institute of Legal Secretaries and PAs. Membership sometimes requires a small fee, but pays for itself several times over.
Look for opportunities to help others
One of the best ways to make a good first impression on someone is to offer help or a solution to a problem they’re having. For example, if someone asks a question in one of the Facebook groups or Subreddits that you’ve joined and you can help, post your answer in the comments. The person asking the question - and anyone else reading or commenting on the post - will remember you for your expertise and helpfulness.
Remember, you don’t have to wait for people to ask questions to provide solutions. If you think that two of your connections could benefit from working together, introduce them via email, or if you happen upon a useful online tool, share it in the online groups you’re a part of. Networking is all about putting in more than you expect to get out, so be as helpful and useful as you can now to reap future rewards.
Get your name out there
There are several ways that you can get your name out into the communities important for your network and, while not all of them are essential, they’re all highly effective.
We’ve already suggested making yourself a trusted voice on social media, but why not take this a step further and start your own blog? If you have expertise in your niche and important things to say, a blog is a relatively easy and often free way to get your voice heard. Once you start to generate views and your audience begins to grow, relevant professionals will be coming to you for advice, solutions and, importantly, because they want to be a part of your network. If you don’t have the time to start your own blog from scratch but still want to get your name out there as the author of some useful content, existing blogs will often publish your article as a guest post.
If writing isn’t really your thing, there’s plenty of other opportunities for getting your name known by the people you want in your network. For example, you could contact a relevant publication and offer to do an interview about your niche expertise, or even start an industry related podcast.
At SecsintheCity, we are always on the lookout for PAs, EAs and other office support professionals to take part in interviews for our blog. If you’ve got advice to share or want to talk about your experience, get in touch on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nurture your existing network
One of the best - and easiest - things you can do for your network while working from home is nurture your existing connections. In the current climate, clients might not have much work for you, but they will have eventually - and they will remember who reached out to them to check in even when business had dried up.
Likewise, it’s worth checking in with university alumni, colleagues you don’t get to work with often and other connections you’ve made over your career just to see how they are doing. Any of these people could be the catalyst to your next career opportunity, and you’ll be first in mind if you drop an email, send an instant message or give them a call just to ask “how are you?”
Plan for the future
There are some aspects of networking that just can’t happen right now. Conferences are off the table and it would be irresponsible to meet with any of your connections in person - but that doesn’t mean you can’t plan for the future.
Set aside some of the free time afforded to you by working from home and use it to research conferences, events or other gatherings dedicated to the office support profession. Many set to take place this summer will have been cancelled or postponed, but getting them in the diary now for later this year or 2021 will give you ample time to prepare and make the most of these networking opportunities.
Successful networking is intentional and meaningful, so we recommend taking some time to research the people and businesses that you want to connect with once events are up and running again. Think about the businesses you want to work for, the clients you want to bring on board and the influential individuals that you would like to have onside, then target your networking efforts accordingly.
Remote networking isn’t just a back-up for when face-to-face interactions can’t take place, it’s a valuable and efficient way of making connections in its own right. Master it now and your network will benefit from it long after self-isolation has ended.