When you think of networking do you feel nervous or excited? Do you feel like it’s more of a chore or a fun evening out? Networking for me can be all of those things; I usually start off a little nervous but as I get more comfortable at the event my nerves go away. Sometimes it can feel like a chore especially if the topic, venue or speaker isn’t of interest but that’s why I carefully chose networking events based on my personal interests. Not only is networking a key activity that is fun but it’s critical to your personal growth and career development. For me networking is all about building relationships and surrounding myself with people who share similar drive and ambition.
I am currently a member of the Toronto Chapter of the International Association of Business Communicator’s (IABC) and the Jays Care Foundation Young Professionals Roster. Throughout April and May I have already attended four networking events and I have come up with my top 5 benefits of networking:
- New opportunities. Networking events are a great way to try new things, different venues and hear from different speakers. Although I am a member of two organizations, I am always on the lookout for different events for example earlier this month I went to a Future is Female event hosted by MondayGirl TO. It was a wonderful opportunity to spend my Sunday with 250 likeminded women and hear from empowering female speakers. TIP: try something new!
- Connections. When you are at a networking event it is important to interact and meet new people, networking is not only great for making career connections is but it’s an opportunity to meet likeminded individuals. It is a fantastic way to hear about new things, for example I found out about the Young Professionals Roster through a friend I meet at a previous networking event. TIP: always have business cards!
- Shared knowledge. Networking is an excellent way to hear from different people and their experiences. If you are at an industry specific event it is a chance to hear how other professionals tackled a similar challenge or ask them questions about a recent campaign they worked on. TIP: remember to listen to others; networking is a two way conversation!
- Increased confidence. Although I am an outgoing person, I tend to start off the event a little nervous. Lately I have been trying to push myself out of my own comfort zone by going to some events by myself. When you are heading to an event come up with a goal for yourself for example introduce yourself to three new people or ask the speaker a question. TIP: eye contact and a good hand shake are key!
- Advice and support. Another excellent aspect about networking is having the opportunity to speak not only to other professionals but with students and new graduates. When I was a student and new graduate I had the chance to speak with numerous people at events who provided me with some invaluable advice. TIP: after an event if you would like to speak with someone for further or ask more questions, give them a call/email and ask to take them for coffee for an informational interview!
Feel free to comment about what some of your favourite networking events are!