Sharpen Your Networking Skills

By Thad Plumley

If I asked you to tell me your job-related strengths how many of you would have networking on the list?

I imagine it would have gotten bypassed by most of you. Yet networking is a skill critical to getting better at your profession.

And, trust me, it’s a skill. There’s more to it than going up to someone you don’t recognize at an event and saying, “So, where are you from?” Good networking involves a plan, a course of action, and follow up.

It’s not easy. When the job calendar starts filling in the last thing many of us want to do is take time off to go to a multi-day conference out of town. Even local sessions at night can be a challenge when you start comparing them to dinner and Netflix after a long day of work.

But you have to go. You have put professional development high on your to-do list, and good professional development includes networking.

Madeline Bell, the CEO of The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, wrote a blog on networking in 2016 and said doing it right involves four steps:

  • Be intentional
  • Have an icebreaker
  • Be open about your goals
  • Follow up.

Networking isn’t about getting business cards; it’s about getting knowledge so you have to have an intentional goal—“I want to get tips on running a quality safety meeting,” for example.

When you talk to folks, you need to be direct: “What brings you here?” is perfect as your icebreaker goes right to the fact you’re in attendance for a reason.

And don’t be afraid to share the reason. Simply ask, “How are safety meetings run at your company?” and “Are you finding them valuable?”

And perhaps most importantly—follow up! If you make a good connection and learn something from someone, get their contact information and reach out to them after the meeting. Let them know you appreciated their feedback and how it helped you. They’ll then be in your network when something else comes up in the future.

Groundwater Week 2017 took place December 5-7 in Nashville and it was exciting to see a lot of networking taking place. I’ve always said while the professional development sessions are exceptional every year, there is no doubt some of the best learning takes place in the hallways throughout the convention center.

Several state groundwater associations will be hosting conferences the next few months and I encourage you to take one in near you. They’re a great opportunity to expand your network and learn something new about your craft.

After all, your competition may be there doing just that. And if they’re adding to their industry strengths, why aren’t you?

Thad Plumley is the editor of WWJ and director of information products at the National Ground Water Association. He can be reached at and on Twitter @WaterWellJournl.

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