Transfering to a new school right in the middle of the academic year is social suicide; especially when you are in high school and to a lesser extent elementary school. I had to change schools while growing up. At the time, I hated it. The awkwardness. The uneasiness. The unsuredness.
In the long run, it was the best decision for me. I learned to get over my fears. More importantly, I learned how to approach others and network with them. But, first I needed to get over other more important issues such as who do you eat lunch with.
For both the extrovert or introvert, it is very dificult to find a new job, let alone change careers. We hear the word “networking” for a job search. There are countless books and articles on how to find a new job. Today, let’s talk about networking specifically in emergency management. How do you connect with others?
1) Honest flattery can get you somewhere
The best way I found to network into a new career field or in a new geographic area is by interviewing a person already doing the job. This is what lead to my graduate internship. Most people love to talk about what they do. Start by making a list of professionals in your area you could interview. If you are traveling for work or fun check ahead of time if there are emergency managers or other professionals you could meet with while visiting. Ask questions such as:
- Why did you start in this career?
- What drew you to the job?
- What do you enjoy the most?
- What are the challenging parts of the job?
Next, ask for advice to starting or changing roles into the emergency management field.
If you are respectful of the person’s time and ask your questions with good intentions and seriousness, most of you will gain quality feedback. If your new networking connection gives you advice that you find valuable, put it into practice. And after you do, send an email letting them know you followed their advice and took action. Don’t we all enjoy hearing how we made even a small impact in a person’s life?
What if they won’t talk with you? Don’t let one ‘NO’ stop you from getting to your ‘YES’ !!
If the county emergency manager won’t connect with you, go to the next county and talk with the individual.
2) Network Virtually
I am not talking about just collecting connections on LinkedIn or FaceBook. Rather, actually connecting and communicating with other professionals using these platforms. For example, on LinkedIn you can find many emergency managment groups. This is a good place to start. Another is the Facebook business pages such as this blog or the Emergency Management magazine.
One of the best virtual networking methods is for you to add to an existing post on LinkedIn, FaceBook or on a blog. If you do not feel qualified giving input, add a clarifying question such as “is this a problem everywhere in emergency management or only in certain areas?” or “how long have you dealt with this problem?”. Feel free to post your questions, but try to keep your ratio of asking questions to answer posts 1:2. Always try to add more to the conversations than asking for answers.
After you add to the conversation, if there is a professional you connected with, send a LinkedIn or friend request. As a suggestion don’t use the default LinkedIn invite language, but add your own words as well, such as “I really appreciated your thoughts in the _______ group on LinkedIn”.
3) Connect at Conferences
While virtual connections are great, the best emergency management are made in person. Conferences are a great way to make these connections. If you put into practice step #1, then hopefully there will be one or two familiar faces. Either way you need to attend the conference with a plan.
Each state has their own emergency management conference, usually by the state agency and the state emergency management association. Also the IAEM conference is an excellent networking event as well.
The goal is to have meaningful conversations with at least 5 people each day of the conference. Use the same probing questions that you would use when talking with the county EM. Go to the evening networking events. Sit at a different table during meals or snack break. Is it uncomfortable, yes. But you will be so glad when you leave the conference with some great new to connections.
Now it is your turn. Time to decide if you are going to sit there and eat by yourself, or are you going to go over to the other table and say ‘Hello’ and make some new friends?
For those already in Emergency Management, how do you network in the field?