networkingWork in local government often requires knowing the right people to better understand how your community functions and how to accomplish the tasks at hand. Knowing and talking to the right people can also help you get the job you want within local government, even when you aren’t running for an elected position. If you are interested in a career in local government, it is important to learn how to effectively network in order to meet the people who can help you advance your career and better serve your community.

Join Professional Organizations

Anyone who is interested in moving into a leadership position within local government should seek out local and national organizations that focus on local government and public service. One example is the International City/County Management Association. When you attend organization events, conferences, and other similar events, you are more likely to make quality contacts you can use to further network. Meeting and speaking with like-minded individuals can help you establish yourself as a leader as you build valuable relationships.

Digital Footprint

Today, just about anything can be done online, including networking for your local government career. One of the most common ways to leave your digital footprint is by getting involved with social media. Social media can be used as an effective tool to connect with your contacts and express your views about local laws and regulations. LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter are all important avenues to share ideas, make valuable connections, and join conversations about various issues.

Local Events

What better way to meet the people around your community than to attend local events? When you interact with the citizens in your city, it is important to approach your networking prospects with genuine interest.  Building relationships should be your focus, rather than collecting the most business cards. Approaching networking with a personal touch is essential to success.

Attending a variety of local functions will help you make contacts in multiple areas. Don’t limit yourself to one area of your city. Expanding your social options allows you to meet new people and spread your ideas throughout the community, helping you make connections that may help you find the right job in local government. Volunteering can be another great way to meet people who have the same goals and ideals as you.

Follow Up

Building relationships from the start is important, but it isn’t the end of your networking endeavors. Once you have created a network, you need to maintain those relationships. If you ignore your contacts or don’t reach out on a regular basis, they won’t be useful to you when you need help in your career. Schedule times to meet with your most important contacts, but don’t forget about the rest. Keeping notes will help you keep track of your connections, keeping the conversations personal. It is also important to make sure you offer information and benefits to your network. These relationships should be mutually beneficial.

Communications Skills

Exercising the best practices in communications skills is essential to establishing and maintaining your network. Show interest in everything the other person is saying and visibly pay attention to what they have to say. Don’t interrupt someone while they are speaking. Make a mental note of what you wanted to say and speak up when he or she is done speaking.

Non-verbal communication is also important. Avoid crossing your arms as you stand. An open stance shows you are more receptive to the conversation and are listening. Maintain eye contact as much as possible to avoid looking distracted. Use your body to emphasize the points you are trying to make.

Networking is an essential aspect to starting and expanding on your career in local government. While you won’t need the popular vote to work in your position, it can be beneficial for your career to make valuable connections in the community. Making a variety of connections with both professionals and citizens can help you build relationships, share ideas, and get advice.

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