When you’re growing any type of career, a key asset is your network. Throughout your career, a broad and diverse community of contacts will often open up an equally broad and diverse range of opportunities, whether you’re looking for jobs or clients. But growing that community can be a bit dicey when you’re moving from base to base on a regular basis.
The good news? You can build a killer network online that can be as portable as your on-the-ground lifestyle. The following tips will help you start growing those connections.
- Join a professional association (or two or three) - Almost every pursuit you can think of has some sort of national membership organization to share knowledge, promote the profession, and – you guessed it – network. Once you join an organization, you have access to its members, no matter where they live. So, for example, if you belonged to a national association but were currently stationed in Guam, you’d still be able to connect with people in Alabama, Arkansas or Alaska who shared your professional interests.
- Volunteer with a national association (or two or three) - No matter where you’re currently based, it’s likely that you could meet people and build connections via volunteer organizations with a national (or global) reach. Think United Way, League of Women Voters, National MS Society, Volunteers of America, or any organization that would enable you to meet and volunteer with like-minded members. If an organization interests you but has no local presence, then volunteer to serve virtually on national committees so you can get to know other members, even if over the phone or via e-mail. Your goal is to build connections that will be based on your shared commitments rather than relying solely on your shared location.
- Join an online community of interest - There are groups and forums and online communities for almost any personal interest you may have. Bowling? Gluten-free cooking? International travel? Extreme sports? Bird watching? Just go online and search for the activity that interests you and “groups” or “organizations” or “online communities” to see what options may come up. Even though these groups may not be directly in your career path, their members may know someone who knows someone. And, because you already have the bond of shared interest, your fellow members will be much likelier to try to find ways to help open up opportunities for you.
- Take advantage of LinkedIn. You want to first create a solid profile on the site so people can see how terrific you are and will know you’re someone they’d really like to get to know. But once you’ve done that, you can join all sorts of groups that can help you connect with others who share your interests, professional path or even hobbies. In addition, you can request to connect with all sorts of individuals, you can ask people to write recommendations that will be seen on your profile by potential employers and clients and you can generally extend the reach of your network far beyond wherever you may be stationed at the moment.
Your goal is to build an online network as geographically diverse as possible so that as your family transfers from one base to another, you community of contacts and relationships won’t be left behind. That way, all those connections you’ve built up will be able to help you find the next opportunity for your portable career, wherever you may have landed.
And keep in mind, those connections don’t have to all be in your career field – sometimes the best opportunities can come from something as simple as a shared interest in sports or scrapbooking or skydiving. You never know!