The art of making connections

Recently I’ve been reflecting on the focus of my business going forward and my personal brand. To do this I’ve asked the questions “What are the key themes of my work?” and “Where does it add value?”. One of the key themes which emerges is “making connections” and here I’ll share four ways in which I consider making connections to be important:

  • Business Development – Connecting with clients to attract work and projects
  • Collaborative Projects – Connecting with collaborators to win business
  • Community – Connecting to build a network of like-minded “colleagues”
  • Creativity – Connecting themes of my work to create innovative and new ideas

Business Development

Key to a successful business and portfolio career is the ability to attract customers and contracts. If you attract work through word of mouth recommendation and by developing connections then you are in a strong position to grow your business or career. Today we have the benefit of platforms such as LinkedIn which more than ever enable us to build connections, make contacts and network. Blend an online presence with more conventional face-to-face networking and this can serve your business well. To make the most of your business development activity ensure that you are clear about your brand, the value of your service to customers and by building on successes. Ensure you have a clear message and a reason for clients to connect. If you grow your portfolio through recommendation and through making the most of connections then this is likely to be a cost-effective and time efficient route to building your business and portfolio.

Collaborative projects

I’ve recently sent out a couple of proposals in which I am collaborating with others. This has enabled me to to work with others who complement what I offer and to build on strengths. Finding people you can collaborate with requires you to make connections at a number of levels. Similar to business development you spend some time gaining clarity in the first place with regard to potential collaborations. Be clear about what you are looking for and why.  Then network and communicate with others to start the process of connecting and engaging with potential collaborators. Connections are likely to work where you share similar values and ways of working. In more conventional work environments we can’t always choose who we work with; when we work in a more fluid and portfolio way we do have the choice and scope to build effective connections which work for us. So use this to your advantage and the benefit of your business.

Community

Portfolio Career Connections is in essence about connecting with others who are on a similar journey.  Working freelance or having your own business often means that you miss out on the sense of community which you gain from  going to a regular place of work. As more and more people work remotely and in virtual teams I think that it will be increasingly important to build communities based on shared interests. I co-lead a coaching group called “Coaching Connections Midlands” which does just this. Each month we meet to share learning and development and key to the success of the group is the sense of community it gives us. What connects us is an interest in coaching and personal development and it is great to see how the group attracts a variety of members coming together in a supportive environment. Communities succeed where there is a shared connection and sense of purpose.

Creativity 

I mentioned at the start of this blog post that I am currently reflecting on my personal brand and the focus of my business and work going forward. I think that the art of making connections to enable new and creative ways of working is at the heart of what I enjoy doing and a cornerstone of my work. Whether I am working on a large scale project to develop a service or enable change in an organisation or with an individual coaching client who wants to create a new direction for their career, there is a core element of enabling change and making the space for new connections and ways of doing things.

Writing this blog post has helped me to articulate one of the key themes of my work “making connections” and to do some thinking about the potential value to those I work with.

What connections have you made from reading this blog post?

What tips can you share to help us develop the art of making connections?

How to be at your best by portfolio working

Do you have the opportunity to use your natural skills and talents in your work? What does being at your best mean to you? 

Reflecting on my own career journey and noticing key themes from the work I do as a career coach has helped me to build an evolving picture of what it takes for us to be at our best in our work. And as the world of work changes and shifts, the challenge is to find our way, to take control and to embrace opportunities such as using social media, working across cultures and to redefine how we manage our careers.

One of the key ingredients of career success as a portfolio worker is to find opportunities which enable you to work in an environment or on a project where the tasks, the people and the way of doing things provides the conditions for you to be at your best and realise your potential.   

I’ve worked in organisations of varying shapes and sizes, in the private and public sectors, as an employee and as a freelancer. Each organisation has its own distinctive culture, systems and way of working. In situations where there is a good match between my skills, my preferred way of working and the goals of the organisation I find it very easy to work at my full potential and there is a good energy. On other occasions where there is a misalignment the opposite is usually the outcome, with lower levels of motivation and constantly coming across blocks to doing a good job.

Each time you take on a new contract be flexible and invest time to understand what is important to the people you are working with. Adapt and flex your style to fit in with your employer or client’s way of doing things. Through reflecting on what does work for you and what doesn’t, you will be able to develop your career strategy by finding and attracting work in line with your strengths, skills and preferences. My work currently involves a combination of freelance and salaried work and this works well for me. It gives me the chance to enjoy being part of a team in a large organisation, alongside a chunk of time working more independently taking on freelance contracts. This is a win-win situation of benefit to both me and the clients and employers I work for.

So, how can you create the right conditions to be at your best and realise your potential?  This does not have to mean working freelance or setting up a business, it could also just mean that you find a job where the portfolio of tasks gives you the scope to realise your potential and enjoy your work.

Here are some tips and questions to consider:

– What is important to you? What do you want from your work life? Do you enjoy variety and change or routine and structure? Do you like working independently or part of a team? What is your attitude to risk and uncertainty? What is your financial situation?

– What does being at your best in your work look, sound and feel like? Is there a metaphor which can describe this for you? More about metaphor in future blog posts.

 – What are your skills, strengths and talents? Notice what you notice and identify key themes. Reflect and review by keeping a journal and speaking to others to find out what they think you are good at.

– Set yourself short and long term goals to build your portfolio in line with your preferred way of working. Remember it’s a journey and the key to success is to keep learning and building on successes. 

– If a step such as setting up your own business or working freelance is not for you at the moment, think creatively about how in your current job you can be at your best. How can this support a longer term career strategy?

– If you are looking for a new job, ask yourself “Will this job and the culture of the organisation enable me to be at my best?” The more time you can spend understanding what drives you the better prepared you will be for your job search and to perform well at interviews.

Future blog posts will develop the key themes in this blog and if you want to find out more about how a coaching conversation can help you to get on track contact jayne@js-coaching.co.uk for a chat. We don’t charge for an initial chat and there is no obligation. If you want to share your portfolio career story on this blog please contact jayne@js-coaching.co.uk.

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