Networking to improve career opportunities

Taster article

By Donna Lucas

One of the differences that struck me in moving from the private sector into education was the lack of value that seemed to be placed on networking.

I am pleased to say I have since realised the opportunities are there, they just aren’t immediately obvious.

As a firm advocate of the benefits of networking, I believe teachers and trainers would develop professionally, and improve their career opportunities, if they invested in building stronger networks.

The most interesting job applicants I have met as a HR practitioner are those who enthuse about who they work with and the ways they have developed as a professional: they have the best experiences to share.

I believe that success in your career requires more than the qualifications and skills required initially to secure a role.

Gaining access to wider communities – including those who interact with your sector, subject or organisation – provides a rich seam of advice and information which will help you when developing new approaches in your practice and career, including formulating that all important career plan.

We never know when our paths will cross, and a network of contacts can connect you with opportunities and provide a useful source of recommendations. I believe we should encourage networking in our learners also.

Building a professional network of contacts should feel natural to educators, but it does require effort in considering how you relate to people.

An important aspect of strong networking is being aware of how we approach people, our willingness to approach people and how we respond to those people. People like to work with helpful people with a good attitude.

Networking includes communicating effectively, both face-to-face and through professional social media platforms. Networking happens through conversation, and that includes everything from small talk to feeling confident in meeting new people and developing relationships.

So, be bold. Listing the people you’d benefit from building into your network is a great start, and remember to develop contacts in and outside your organisation.

Who knows how it might develop you as a professional and where it might lead!

Donna Lucas is group vice-principal, HR and Professional Development, at the Shrewsbury Colleges Group and chairs the Association of Colleges’ West Midlands HR Network. Donna is a member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.

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