Franklin & Marshall College Franklin & Marshall College

The Move from Networking to Advocacy

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By: Tammy J. Halstead, M.A., Director of Alumni Advising & Development

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Imagine having a robust and dynamic network of people in your corner.  Each member of this professional network interacts frequently and stays connected over time.  When something new or interesting is going on in your career field, the network spreads the news, and, when facing a professional challenge, members of the network brainstorm strategies.  Talking through an idea or project is a phone call away.  It is not uncommon for a member of the group to facilitate introductions to others because, “I thought you two would enjoy connecting."  Having this type of professional advocacy network is valuable, fulfilling, and provides a wealth of resources for everyone involved.  If your professional network is already there – congratulations!  Keep it up!  If you are not quite there yet, you may be thinking “How do I get there?”

Developing a network of advocates takes time and multiple interactions, allowing contacts and potential contacts to get to know one another.  Many alumni feel pretty comfortable with reaching out to fellow alumni or colleagues in their fields (or fields of interest) for an initial conversation, and there are many resources available to facilitate those first contacts.  LinkedIn, for example, is a powerful resource that I recommend to alumni everyday because it can help you find and connect to potential advocates, fellow alumni, and professionals in your career field or fields of interest (your Regional Alumni Chapter and the alumni directory online are also great resources).

Often, the challenge, though, is staying connected after that first outreach.  What do you do once you are “Linked?”

The move from an initial outreach to an advocate relationship takes commitment, planning, action, and, most importantly, a genuine interest in building a mutually beneficial relationship.  But, it is not difficult.  Here are a few ways to get started to developing your own network of advocates!

  1. Request phone conversations.  The next time you “Link” to someone and they accept, follow up with a request for a phone conversation.  And the next time you accept a request to “Link,” thank them and request a phone conversation.  Seeking a dialogue with your connections allows them to get to know you and allows you to get to know them, which is an important step in building mutually beneficial professional partnerships.
  2. Plan for future outreach.  Following all networking interactions, take a few minutes to reflect on the conversation and identify topics on which you may want to follow up in the future.  Did they mention a project they were working on?  A professional conference they plan to attend?  Did they recommend you to another contact?  Did you tell them about an opportunity you were pursuing?  All of these can be occasions for staying in touch.  Work them into your calendar now while they are fresh in your mind.
  3. Write reminders on business cards.  Did you ever collect business cards during a networking event, put them on your dresser at home, and pick them up next week without remembering who any of those people were?  It happens to all of us.  We think the conversation is impactful enough that we won’t forget, but we do.  Whenever you receive a business card, take a moment to jot a quick note on the back that will remind you of the person, then make sure to follow up.
  4. Offer assistance.  It does not matter that you are unsure how you might be able to help.  Make the offer.  Always.  “If I can be of assistance to you, please let me know” is a great place to start.
  5. Be a connector.  One of the best ways of demonstrating your commitment to advocacy is by facilitating connections between people you know and respect. Make connections between and among fellow Fummers, professionals who are in similar career fields, or those who share affinities.  Be mindful of the possibility of connections, and offer to make an introduction.
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