There are lots of leadership and career tips out there for our consumption. But some of the most important lessons we learn in the business world have to do with what garners us a return on our investment (ROI).
I personally believe in learning from others’ mistakes; avoiding pitfalls I can foresee to working smarter and not just harder without results. One of the best lessons I’ve learned in over 10 years in public relations is that relationships are the key to any successful endeavor.
In my field, it’s been paramount that I had strong, positive relationships with all types and titles of individuals. I’ve had to organically befriend journalists, inspire potential volunteers, or bring an idea to life in a matter of days. The only way I’ve been able to make this happen (and not lose my hair) is knowing whom to call to share a best practice or a resource in a pinch.
My greatest ROI for my career is related to the effort I’ve made to foster a network of mutually beneficial relationships. That requires much more than a mechanical business card exchange with a stranger at a mixer. I realized quickly that name-dropping folks with an “it’s who you know” mentality ignores that it’s really more about what people know about you.
Are you a helpful colleague, willing to join a committee, share a contact, or pitch in at an event if called upon? Or do you find yourself taking and not giving back because you’re “too busy.” Guess what? Everyone is busy. It’s those who share time outside their office who build strong reputations in the industry, find out about the newest job opportunities, or are nominated by their peers for professional awards.
For me, building relationships has been best accomplished by joining professional organizations such as the Public Relations Society of America San Antonio or the San Antonio Association of Hispanic Journalists. And I didn’t just lurk at luncheons. I had to get involved to get a return. Sharing my time managing the newsletter or leading as board president helped me connect with some of the best communicators in the business. These mentors and friends are sure to connect you to opportunities like getting a story in print or helping you find your next career move if you prove yourself a resource to them. I encourage you to get out from behind your desk and meet the professionals who can truly bolster your career goals.
Need more ideas on how to connect? Here are five tips to lay the foundation for a great professional relationship:
- Join the board of your professional organization to make some instant friends
- Use professional association volunteer opportunities to learn, try stretch assignments, or get to know a professional you may have no connections with
- Give advice, share job opportunities, or brainstorm with others who need support
- Introduce yourself to a veteran in the industry that you can learn from or teach as well
- Champion a non-competitor’s work and build cross promotional opportunities