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NPS Fundamentals Essentials: Networking

Overview

Whether you are a new employee or interested in employment with the National Park Service, understanding how the organization functions is vital to your success. Are all parks the same?  How is the work divided? How are the sites managed?  What do the different divisions do?

Known as “Essentials,” these topics provide insight into how the National Park Service manages the entire system of parks and programs to accomplish its mission.  Reading through each topic gives an overview at the most basic level with opportunities to link to more in-depth, specific information.

Introduction

Networking can be:

  • The sharing of information or services among individuals, groups, or institutions that is mutually beneficial and involves a two-way relationship.
  • Connections that may lead to input, advice, or collaboration on any task, project, or program in a way to succeed in outstanding ways.
  • Networking is not meant to be a way of using people. It is not a form of mentoring. It’s purpose is to find out the latest idea, tip, or opportunity. It can help develop ways to save time and share lessons learned.

Networking is a good way to build relationships, make friends, accomplish work and enhance your career. It’s a skill that can be learned and improved with practice. It can help with finding solutions, a partnership, or support. Networking opportunities can be found during your daily work, at division and interdivisional meetings, when working on a special project, or at training and conferences.

Networking does not take the place of and does not supersede the chain of command. When potential solutions or ideas arise from networking, they need to be brought to your supervisor’s attention.

What is Networking?

Networking is critical at all levels of your career to help with your success and to benefit the park service. It’s a way for sharing best management practices, and we need to encourage people to do it more; it’s time well spent. It can be used to protect resources and develop careers.”
– Gayle Hazelwood, NPS Superintendent

Networking is a vital component of doing business in today’s world and has become essential to the National Park Service’s organizational culture [link to Culture Essential]. Networking involves all professions, grade levels, and partner organizations.

Networking is beneficial to the organization and to individual employees and their careers. The sharing of information, ideas, and solutions can create a rich environment for the development of partnerships across park divisions, the agency, and the private sector. Reaching out to others brings diversity of experience and expertise to each situation, creating a variety of ways to address issues.

Students sitting at oval table with discussing team project
Networking is a major component of the NPS Fundamentals training.

The Give and Take of Networking

A network that can cover a variety of topics is a good place to find help or advice. Developing a strong network with fellow employees will help you answer questions as they arise, such as:

  • Who can I talk to about a policy question on geo cashing?
  • What suggestions do you have for recruiting and retaining diverse candidates?
  • Who are you partnering with for your youth programs?
  • How did this particular training benefit you?

Networking also means being generous and giving back, keeping the needs of your contacts in mind. Who would be interested in knowing this? Who do I need to check in with?

  • I saw an article that you might be interested in reading on composting toilets.
  • I met a person who might be great for your interpretive program.
  • Tell me what’s going on with your project.
  • I know of someone who might be a good volunteer.

“I made friends that I’ve kept for life and have benefited professionally and personally from networking. Professionally, I’ve checked with them on tough issues to see how they handled them before I made a decision. Personally, it really helped to check on new parks I was thinking of applying to and a great way to get a sense of the staff and supervisors at the new areas.”  – Bill Pierce, retired NPS

Tips for Networking

  • Like any relationship, networking requires care and tending. Keep your networking friendships alive and current by maintaining them on a regular basis through e-mails, social media, phone calls, going out for coffee or visits.
  • Be proactive in supplying people with information even before being asked. Keep them in the loop on your issues and solutions as you go forward in your career. Look for opportunities to help your contacts and give more than you get.
  • Make new contacts through your core network when you need help locating other experts and advice on complex issues. Keep adding to your network as you go.
  • Do not hesitate to ask your contacts early on when you start a project, have an issue, problem solving, and want advice in how to do something, etc. They will have lessons learned and success stories to share.
  • Include other staff people at all levels and departments in your network. Encourage people to alert you on issues and opportunities for your area of work or personal interest.
  • Broaden your network to include folks from outside the NPS and federal government: a diverse network is a stronger network. You can use all sorts of available technologies and face-to-face meetings to communicate with people.
  • Show appreciation to those who help you and remember to return the favor.
  • Keep your promises and follow through.
Delegation representing conservation efforts in Mongolia visited HOAL
A diverse network is a strong network

Issues and Challenges for the Future

Information sharing is often done by people with a common interest, for example, cave management, impact mitigation, trail maintenance, or working with historic weapons. People with common interests share experiences, resource information, what worked and what didn’t, contacts, trade magazines in their field, etc. The challenge is for employees to develop networking with their own peers, across division lines, and with various people in the park’s chain of command.

Additional Resources

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  4. Could the reference to “Facebook” – rather than the more generic “social media” in “Tips for Networking” – be construed as an implicit endorsement of a particular service or product?

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