The word networking can strike fear, horror and / or joy into the best of us. Networking is without a doubt a valuable skill set and resource tool but for many it can involve going outside our comfort zone when confronted with the notion of chatting to a complete stranger.
I won’t lie – I was feeling slightly daunted when faced with the prospect of attending the Gala Dinner Networking Event at Executive Secretary LIVE on my own. However, as you can see from the picture above, networking with like-minded peers can be a wholly enriching and enjoyable experience.
We live in an age where personal branding is paramount, where people buy people and YOU are the business commodity. Networking can be an extremely powerful tool when adopted both internally and externally. From an internal perspective you will shine the spotlight a bit more on you and provide transparency, clearer communication and enable workplace influence. External networking will broaden the playing fields.
Networking is ultimately about sharing your goals with others and supporting them as they try to achieve theirs. In order to be successful you need to be credible and authentic. Meeting new people is a great opportunity to exchange ideas and expand your network.
So why should you network as a PA?
From a career perspective networking enables you to build on your personal brand and reputation. It will keep you up to date and relevant in an ever changing world. By attending networking events it will enable you to become a super connector and should the need arise it will provide you with potential career opportunities and enhanced mobility. You will also get the opportunity to check out amazing venues which you can then personally recommend to colleagues, clients and peers.
My Top Tips:
- Always wear something you feel comfortable in.
- Always wear a smile and be approachable – remember most people are nervous too so make sure that your body language is open and welcoming.
- If you don’t know anyone approach the host who will make an introduction on your behalf.
- Don’t forget your business cards – I meet quite a few PAs who still don’t have these, make a business case and approach your boss and get some ordered. Remember if you don’t ask you don’t get. Worst case scenario invest in yourself and buy some. You are worth it!
- If you are not sure of what to talk about then ask questions and listen and learn.
- One of the biggest worries can be how to leave or get away from someone without offending them – don’t be afraid to say that you only have limited time at the event and need to catch up with one or two more. It is a networking event after all.
- Invariably someone will ask you what you do or where you work – if you don’t want to limit yourself to title alone then have a back up. At non industry events I describe myself as a ‘Super Connector and Juggler’. This will peak interest and you can then explain you are a proud PA. If your company is not well-known then put it in context i.e. you may have heard of us as we are related to X and Y and did Z. Put a spin on it which will encourage more engagement as none of us want any awkward silences. For e.g. my company is a well-known french bank – I’m actually going to Paris next month, have you ever been?
- Don’t feel you have to stay until the bitter end – just showing up is an achievement so make your time work for you.
- Be consistent and collaborative.
- Find your tribe – if starting out then attend an industry event or one related to your peers – networking with like-minded people ensures that there is an existing collaborative and supportive framework and community in place. Volunteering is also worth exploring.
- Enjoy – many people associate networking with having to work the room. Yes it’s a numbers game but in my experience if you genuinely connect with one or two people at an event it has been a success.
So be brave ladies and remember – if you always do what you have always done, you will always get what you have always got. There is a big world out there – are you ready to mingle?
Jennifer Corcoran is an Office Manager with 20 years’ admin/PA experience working with Senior Executives at international level. Jennifer describes herself as a Champion of the PA Profession.