By: Kate Bullard
When you think of the word "networking", what do you think of:
∙ I'm not sure what the benefits are; or
∙ I've not got the time to network.
I bet we've all thought and said these things before when it comes to attending a networking event either online or in real life - yes we used to network in real life! Networking can certainly be scary and daunting at times particularly if you've never networked before or you are an introvert, it can also be hard to understand and see the benefits of having a network for your own personal and professional development and let's face it as event and hospitality professionals we are busy ladies!
Your network is your net worth
Networking is about being around people whom you can learn and grow from, but equally you can share your own experiences with them - sharing is caring after all. We all know that variety in life is key to a happy and successful life and networking is very similar. Key to developing and growing both personally and professionally is having a diverse network and it doesn't just need to be a professional group such as the Female Hospitality Network, it could be your book club, your fitness class or an alternative hobby group. A network not only connects you with people but also with ideas and opportunities, I think it is always worth remembering that everyone you meet will know something that you don't know and vice versa - embrace these contacts and opportunities.
By attending networking events you are not only taking control of your own personal development to grow and learn, but you are also increasing your professional development opportunities by demonstrating your knowledge and skillset internally to your manager and company by bringing back valuable knowledge, insights and ideas from your network. This can make you stand out from other colleagues who do not network and ultimately help you gain a promotion or pay increase because of the added value you are bringing back to the team. I always recommend adding this type of added value to your self-evaluations to highlight on record how you take control of your own personal development and bring this back to your company particularly as this is something we all typically do in our personal time.
We all have many cheerleaders via the Female Hospitality Network, and other networks we are part of, and one of the big benefits of having these cheerleaders is that we keep each other accountable as well as encouraging and challenging each other to achieve our goals and be the best version of ourselves. We are also supporting each other by helping us all to grow and develop by sharing ideas, experiences and war stories. We only have these cheerleaders in our lives as we decided to join a networking group…
Networking is a lot like nutrition and fitness - we know what to do, the hard part is making it a top priority
Developing a successful network doesn't happen overnight it takes time and effort - a bit like our beach bodies! How we invest in our wellbeing to make it a priority, we should also do the same thing with networking. This can be done online by engaging with your network/audience via your social media feeds, joining a virtual networking session or an attending an event. Remember if you are networking online, how you position yourself and come across should also be reflective of how you are in real life - be your authentic self, don’t worry about what everyone else is doing.
It is not always what you know…
It goes back to that saying that it is not always what you know but who you know! Utilise your offline and online networks to help you whether this is advice on a project, a recommendation for a venue/supplier or finding your perfect role. Having a personal recommendation for a job can make you stand apart from other candidates and it could be the deciding factor in a role being offered to you.
Top tips on maximising and smashing networking:
1. If you have an attendee list, connect with them before the networking event via their LinkedIn/event profiles. Don't forget to connect with the people you met at the networking event afterwards as well.
2. Be your authentic self throughout.
3. If you are attending on your own, when you walk in feel empowered to join a group who are already talking and introduce yourself at the appropriate point. Equally, if you spot someone standing on their own, go over to them, introduce yourself and invite them into your conversation.
4. Don't use the opportunity to obtain as much information/contacts for yourself, also give back. People always remember you if you helped them as well.
5. Share photos and insights of the networking event on your own social channels which will help to raise your profile within the industry but also the profile of the venue and the event you attended - this connects with the above tip of giving and receiving via your network.
6. Smile and relax.
7. If you want to personally and professionally grow and develop, make networking a priority just like you do with your wellbeing.
8. Don't drink too much at the events - which is very easy to do.