Networking: The Good, the Awkward, and the Necessary!

IWNT-networking

“Networking is hard. I’m not very good at it. I hate networking, but I know networking is invaluable to finding work and opportunities in any situation.” 

These words and phrases were heard many times over during our most recent session, which focused on networking in Canada and navigating the social scene in a new and foreign place.  Luckily, guest speakers Sally Rudolf and Rebekah Mahaffey helped us break down and understand the intimidating concept that is networking.

Sally, a director of 3 years at Pacific Immigrant Resources Society (PIRS) and public sector lawyer, confided in us that she was not good at networking, and still struggles with it.  Despite working in the public sector, she still feels that meeting and connecting with new people can be awkward, intimidating, and frustrating at times.  Rebekah, a social policy planner with the City of Burnaby and former PIRS Board Member, showed us how hard networking can be, especially when you are placed in a new and unfamiliar environment.  However, she also pointed out how beneficial networking is as it can uncover many hidden job opportunities and help develop positive personal relationships.

Both Sally and Rebekah voiced feelings of discomfort and shyness when it came to networking – we have all felt these, and with the help of these two, we now have some tips on how to successfully network.  Firstly, overcome your shyness.  People are not there to judge, especially when it comes to networking and social events – people are there to connect, to learn, and to explore and expand their knowledge.  The person that you’re speaking to may be just as nervous as you are.  Which brings us to the next tip: be genuine and be you.   Know yourself enough that you can easily describe what your interests are, what you have to offer, and what experiences you have in relation to the topic at hand.  Think about yourself and your goal for networking.  This gives your conversation and questions some direction and will likely result in a productive encounter.  Find out what the other person does, see if this ties in with your interests, and from there ask probing questions to determine how your conversation can result in potential opportunities or new knowledge to aid your goals.

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But networking is not a one-sided relationship – think about the individual you are connecting with.  What can you offer them?  It is advisable to ask a mix of personal and professional questions.  Get to know the person, and get to know what they do – make the conversation enjoyable, and you may even develop a personal connection even if your professional connection does not happen!  The more friends, the merrier.  Sally pointed out that networking is often seen as a tool one can use to advance themselves and their opportunities, but nobody likes to blatantly ask for help.  Instead, think about how you can connect with someone, how you can help them, and how you can share something positive with this person.

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You will see how simple it is for a healthy, positive relationship to develop from this basic principal of sharing, which is at the root of networking.  It seems like such an intimidating and overwhelming concept, but we must ask ourselves “where do we want immigrant women to fit into the workplace?”  Do we want them to be confident and well connected?  Or do we want them to feel isolated and miss out on opportunities that they could have found through networking and connecting with people?  The choice seems simple when phrased in this manner, and from this session we see how easy networking can be.  Let’s encourage each other to connect – let’s continue to develop the friendships and connections made at the Immigrant Women’s Networking Table and let’s grow our group of strong women!  I personally encourage you all to join us for the upcoming International Women’s Day Celebration co-sponsored by PIRS and the University Women’s Club at The Hycroft. It will be taking place on March 6, 2014 – more details below.

International Women’s Day – Inspiring Change
Thursday, March 6, 2014
10:00 am to 1:00 pm
The Hycroft, (1489 McRae Avenue, Vancouver)

Light buffet lunch to be served.

Please note that while admission is free, it is limited to registered attendees. Please RSVP to attend the event via info@pirs.bc.ca oroffice@uwcvancouver.ca.

We hope to see you there – we will be returning to a regular IWNT session in April.  Feel free to bring a friend!  More information to come so please stay tuned.  It was delightful to spend another evening with all of you and to see the existing relationships we uncovered through the simple act of networking – sharing information with each other and getting to know one another a little bit better.  Let’s continue to grow these bonds at the International Women’s Day event, and at the next IWNT meeting.

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