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We all know that developing a career takes time and a great deal of effort. It can also be an aspect of professional life that many of us overlook, and in doing so, we end up missing opportunities to advance our careers.

The good news is that there are now more career development tools and techniques available than ever before. For example, online social media can help you build a personal ‘brand’ to entice potential employers or help you progress in your current role.

More traditional career development techniques will also help you. For instance, sharpening your soft skills such as team-building or time management will certainly perk up your prospects, and there are a variety of other techniques you can employ that don’t involve a laptop.

Personal development and passing job interviews may seem like an uphill struggle at times. But with the helpful tips included within this ebook, you’ll be on the right path in no time.

Download nowLinkedIn: Networking and building a reputation

Whether you want to land a new job, get yourself noticed by upper management, or make contacts to grow your business, networking is essential for career development.

Many people think of networking as a group of people in suits at a formal event, wine glasses in hand and engaging in small talk. However, effective online networking tools have made networking much easier (and less awkward!).

LinkedIn is perhaps the most well-known online networking website for career development. It has 240 million active users and more than 3 million companies worldwide have an official LinkedIn Company Page 1. It is therefore essential to become involved in LinkedIn if you are serious about getting yourself noticed online.

Creating a profile on LinkedIn enables you to connect with employers, colleagues and others in your industry, whilst allowing you to showcase your career experience, post articles and get involved with groups.

When creating a profile, ensure you highlight your work experience, skills, education and any languages or charity work you have been involved with. Deanne Earle, a project consultant with 20 years in the field of project management, also advises you to: ‘Have an excellent head and shoulder picture of yourself. It doesn’t have to be taken by a professional so long as it represents you in a professional way 2.’

Remember that the information you share on LinkedIn is being seen by other professionals, business owners and maybe the odd head-hunter. Use it as an opportunity to portray what you can do, what you’ve accomplished, and what you can offer a potential new employer.

After creating a profile, the next step is to add people and grow your network. Start by adding your current and past colleagues, clients or even friends with professional-looking LinkedIn accounts. Add contacts by clicking on ‘My Network’ and selecting ‘Add Contacts’. Then simply enter your email address to see who is on LinkedIn already, and connect with them. Ensure you enter your work email address to connect with colleagues and clients.

Once you have a LinkedIn profile and a few connections, getting involved in LinkedIn group discussions can really boost your presence and make a great impression. With 87% of recruiters now using LinkedIn to vet potential employees, it really is important to put you and your knowledge out there. 3

LinkedIn has a huge array of groups to become involved with, from career-related groups to hobbies. A simple LinkedIn search for groups you might be interested in can bring up a lot of results, so it is important to pick popular groups with active discussions. Request to join groups where you can speak up and display your expert advice.

By getting involved with LinkedIn groups relevant to you and your career path, you will certainly appear knowledgeable, helpful and passionate. As stated by Alexia Nalewaik, Principal Consultant of QS Requin Corporation: ‘You must share your knowledge. Don’t keep it to yourself, don’t hoard it. Give advice to others. Every question asked is a teaching opportunity. People will not just appreciate it; you will become known as a go-to person for your expertise and approachability.’ 4

To help you get started, here are three of the largest project management LinkedIn groups:

Hopefully, becoming an active group contributor will increase the likelihood of making connections and increasing your network. Potential employers, future clients or even business partners will also be impressed by your posts and knowledge.

Overall, when it comes to LinkedIn, stay involved. Keep your LinkedIn profile fresh and update your stats as soon as you get a new qualification or skill. Alexia Nalewaik advises that you: ‘keep it up to date, and relentlessly self-promote. Ask for recommendations on LinkedIn, add links to articles or blogs you have written, and highlight awards.’ 5

Further social media tools

As the aim of this ebook is to introduce effective ways of developing your career, it may seem strange to focus on any social media other than LinkedIn. After all, LinkedIn is very much social media for the career-minded, as opposed to Facebook or Twitter, which are much more casual.

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However, it is definitely worth talking about Twitter. A very popular social media platform with 310 million monthly active users 6, Twitter is a place to discuss and share opinions quickly and easily.

You may have heard of your friends or celebrities ‘Tweeting’, which is basically just writing short messages on their Twitter profile for their followers to see. A Tweet may contain up to 140 characters of text, and you can also share links to media such as videos or pictures.

When writing a Tweet, you can add a ‘hashtag’ to ensure that your message shows up easily in a Twitter search. For example, if you share a message with some great career advice, adding ‘#careeradvice’ will ensure your message shows up when people search for career advice.

As you can imagine, this makes Twitter a great tool for anyone wanting to build an online persona. You can really put your ideas or opinions out there for all the world to see.

For aspiring project managers, Deanne Earle has this advice: ‘Twitter has a very active project management group under the hashtag #pmchat (project management chat) and #pmot (project managers on twitter). 7

‘Project management chat’ (#pmchat) is a particularly useful group to join on Twitter and a great place to start. They have a weekly chat and thousands of people follow the group.

Although not necessarily a group like the type on LinkedIn, following ‘project management chat’ or ‘project managers on twitter’ ensures you see what others are saying, and gives you a new audience for your own ideas, knowledge and opinions.

And this works for all professions and industries – not just project management. So, start a profile and start sharing expertise and knowledge. Join the discussion and you’ll be surprised at the friendships and opportunities that exist.

An even easier platform for raising your online persona is blogging. With Twitter, you are bound by a character limit, but with a blog, you can write a lengthy and in-depth piece to really show off your knowledge.

Blogging is also an excellent way to connect with others. Comment on other people’s work and start discussions. Consider this lasting piece of advice from Deanne Earle: ‘Be visible, believe your contribution counts, speak up, make yourself heard, put yourself forward…Read, read a lot: books, articles, whitepapers, industry publications and recreational material. Write your own materials and publish it on your own or others blogs or websites. 8

By starting a blog relevant to your career, you are again putting your knowledge and opinions out there, enticing other professionals and building a positive online brand unique to you. Reading other blogs will also help to shape your views and put you in a position to discuss.

Check out the following project management bloggers. They are all an excellent example of how to use knowledge and expertise to network and build a personal brand:

  • Michel Dion is passionate about project management, learning, mind & health and productivity. His blog Project Aria has a range of topics that relate to successful project management.
  • Cesar is a very friendly and socially active project manager from Canada. Alongside his blog PM for The Masses he also runs a podcast and has written a book.
  • Elizabeth Harrin started blogging at Girls Guide to PM when she realised there weren’t enough women speaking and writing about project management. She is an author, copywriter, publishes book and software reviews, and runs a project communications consultancy.
  • Tony is a very approachable and friendly guy from Australia. He writes his blog Tony Adams PM with humour and is interested in social project management and technology.

Start by finding a free blogging platform you like the look of. WordPress, Tumblr, Svbtle or Blogger are all free and make it easy to start blogging straight away. Lastly, add links to your Twitter and blogging page on your LinkedIn account. You never know who may want to read them.

Soft skills and face-to-face networking

A project manager working in construction might have ‘hard skills’, such as knowing PRINCE2 and how to construct buildings. But will he or she be a success in their career if they cannot assert themselves? What if they display an unpleasant attitude and bad work ethic?

Possessing strong soft skills is vital if you want to push your career forward. Whether you are at a job interview, attending a networking event, greeting a client, or just at work in general, having decent soft skills will make a lasting impression on the people around you.

Take a look at the soft skills your particular career needs. If you feel you could be better at one or two of those skills, take action. Training and coaching is available from a multitude of sources.

Naomi Caietti, an influential public speaker and project management author, says: ‘There were four things I did early on that helped propel my leadership forward as a project manager: involvement with my local PMI chapter and chapter leadership, networking with a global group of project managers in communities of practice, managing more complex enterprise and state-wide projects, programs and stakeholders, and development of a personal growth and development plan that included continued leadership training.’ 9

Like Naomi suggests, form a personal development plan, find some training and improve your soft skills. You will no doubt communicate better, come across more positively, be a better leader, and most importantly, be someone that people want to employ or do business with.

Soft skills are also an integral part of networking face-to face. As Naomi says above, one of the things she did early on in her career was network. But how do we network effectively and with confidence?

Feeling low in confidence during networking opportunities is common, but it is important to understand the difference between low self-esteem and low confidence. As quoted by training CEO Shaun Thomson: ‘Confidence is what we project and what we want others to see, not how we really feel.’ 10

Confidence can be faked. A great technique to appear confident is with ‘assertiveness techniques’. Shaun suggests confidence can be achieved: ‘through assertiveness techniques – moving from a passive position to contributing to a conversation and clearly articulating your viewpoint. When we feel unconfident we ignore social cues to contribute; embrace these moments to add to the conversation and believe that your input is valid.’ 11

Remaining passive and not putting your idea or opinion forward will hold you back, whether at a networking event, in a meeting or in day-to-day office life. By putting forward your contribution, you are making people take notice and take interest in you.

Lastly, make some connections before you even attend the networking event. If you want to avoid too many awkward introductions, why not contact people you know will be attending beforehand? It certainly worked for CEO David DeWolf: ‘I choose to reach out prior—via a quick email—to a handful of participants that I knew would be attending. I introduced myself and let them know that I was looking forward to connecting. On the first day of the event, my simple trick paid off. Within 20 minutes of arriving at the event one of the contacts—an individual that I genuinely thought would be a good addition to my network—asked me to lunch.’ 12

If the thought of making small talk and starting conversations with strangers is incredibly daunting, coaching or training can help you. If you’re worried about the cost of such training, rest assured that it is a wise investment. Boosting your assertiveness and people skills will no doubt help you in all aspects of your life.

If you’re looking for a face-to-face networking opportunity, PMI and APM regularly hold events. If you are interested in connecting with other PMO professionals, there is a specific social event organised by the PMO Flashmob. To browse a variety of further events, check out The Girl’s Guide to PM events page.

Developing your career and making connections is rarely a quick process. But you can improve and adjust with some easy techniques. Using social media to network and put forward a great persona is always a positive step. Investing in soft skills training is even better.

Whatever steps you choose to take, ensure you have a plan, plenty of ambition and the right tools to get there. We hope this ebook has helped familiarise you with some of the tools and techniques available.

When writing a Tweet, you can add a ‘hashtag’ to ensure that your message shows up easily in a Twitter search. For example, if you share a message with some great career advice, adding ‘#careeradvice’ will ensure your message shows up when people search for career advice.

“Think about your own work and career. Where do you want to go? What do you want to achieve? Develop yourself in your organisation and as an individual.”

PMI® is a registered mark of Project Management Institute, Inc.

References

1Smart Business Trends (30th April 2014) Kinley McFadden. ‘Why LinkedIn is So Important for Professionals and Job-Seekers.’ Available: http://smartbusinesstrends.com/linkedin-important-professionals-job-seekers/

2Knowledge Train (17th April 2016) Simon Buehring. ‘Women in project management – Interview with Deanne Earle and Alexia Nalewaik.’ Available: https://www.knowledgetrain.co.uk/resources/careers/women-in-project-management-interview-with-deanne-earle-and-alexia-nalewaik

3Adweek: SocialTimes blog (22nd Sept 2015) Kimberlee Morrison. ‘Survey: 92% of Recruiters Use Social Media to Find High-Quality Candidates.’ Available: http://www.adweek.com/socialtimes/survey-96-of-recruiters-use-social-media-to-find-high-quality-candidates/627040

4Knowledge Train (17th April 2016) Simon Buehring. ‘Women in project management – Interview with Deanne Earle and Alexia Nalewaik.’ Available: https://www.knowledgetrain.co.uk/resources/careers/women-in-project-management-interview-with-deanne-earle-and-alexia-nalewaik

5Knowledge Train (17th April 2016) Simon Buehring. ‘Women in project management – Interview with Deanne Earle and Alexia Nalewaik.’ Available: https://www.knowledgetrain.co.uk/blog/women-in-project-management-interview-with-deanne-earle-and-alexia-nalewaik

6Twitter (unknown) Twitter Usage – Company Facts. Available: https://about.twitter.com/company

7Knowledge Train (17th April 2016) Simon Buehring. ‘Women in project management – Interview with Deanne Earle and Alexia Nalewaik.’ Available: https://www.knowledgetrain.co.uk/resources/careers/women-in-project-management-interview-with-deanne-earle-and-alexia-nalewaik

8Knowledge Train (17th April 2016) Simon Buehring. ‘Women in project management – Interview with Deanne Earle and Alexia Nalewaik.’ Available: https://www.knowledgetrain.co.uk/resources/careers/women-in-project-management-interview-with-deanne-earle-and-alexia-nalewaik

9Knowledge Train (03 May 2016) Simon Buehring. ‘Women in project management – Interview with Naomi Caietti.’ Available: https://www.knowledgetrain.co.uk/resources/careers/women-in-project-management-interview-with-naomi-caietti

10The Guardian (21st April 2015) Shaun Thomson. ‘Six steps to improving your confidence in business’. Available: http://www.theguardian.com/small-business-network/2015/apr/21/improving-confidence-business-success-skill

11The Guardian (21st April 2015) Shaun Thomson. ‘Six steps to improving your confidence in business’. Available: http://www.theguardian.com/small-business-network/2015/apr/21/improving-confidence-business-success-skill

12Fortune (16th July 2015) David DeWolf. ‘How to effectively network (even if you dread it)’. Available: http://fortune.com/2015/07/16/david-dewolf-networking-advice/

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Simon Buehring

Simon Buehring is the Founder and Managing Director of Knowledge Train.

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