Networking is a necessary evil in today’s working world. Sometimes it can be an exercise in torture walking up to a stranger in a professional-ish setting – will they respond to your attempt at small talk? Here we ask some of the nominees in the Creative Industry category for this year’s IMAGE Businesswomen of the Year Awards their thoughts on networking. Read on, you might pick up some tips.
Networking is such a horrible term that conjures up images of callous, calculating, meaningless encounters. I prefer to develop relationships with other human beings. I tend to be a one on one person, so the idea of “doing the room” used to be a nightmare scenario. However, when this opportunity now presents itself, I find somatic practice invaluable in enabling me to change perspective. I take some quiet moments of breathing and mindful practice in advance to ground myself , then visualise a room full of friends waiting to meet me and go forward with a smile. I have a sharp radar for in authenticity , so I can quickly discern who is worth spending time with. It’s all about being oneself and saying one’s truth, the basis of human interaction.
Mary Hawkes Greene, president and CEO, Burren College of Art
Finding a topic to talk about is easier than you think
Are you a good listener? Do you like talking about your career? Well, welcome to networking! That is all it really. Always remember most people really like a chance to talk about what they love or what they are passionate about. Be yourself, that is what people remember.
Anna Keely, principal and managing director, Bronwyn Conroy Beauty School
As an entrepreneur, you’re always on
Remember that every time you to speak to someone you are networking. Whether you are at the shops or in a meeting, everyone is a potential client.
Ann Chapman, owner, Stonechat Jewellers
If you’re not into traditional networking, try something you’re comfortable with
I have never been truly comfortable with the traditional concept of networking. I am more interested in a genuine connection between people, brands and possibilities. For me, it’s not about ‘the next sale’ but how we could potentially collaborate to create something interesting and innovative together. To make contact with someone I find inspiring, I prefer to send an email or letter and open a more organic conversation. General advice, from my own experience, would be that when an opportunity arises to network, speak with, or work with someone you respect, give all of yourself and learn what you can from them, ask their thoughts on your ideas and be brave.
Avril Stanley, CEO, festival director and creative director, Body & Soul
Lucy Nagle, fashion designer and brand founder, Lucy Nagle Designs Ltd
Don’t Be All ‘Thanks, Penneys’ About Your Accomplishments
Accept compliments. As a nation we have a terrible habit of putting ourselves down. If someone compliments you or your business just say ‘thank you’ graciously and move on. And if you can, wear your product. I’m lucky to work in such a visual industry and, as a result, I let my product talk for me!
Ann Chapman, owner, Stonechat Jewellers
Nothing ventured, nothing gained
Networking opens doors and creates possibilities. You don’t know unless you try! Open with a smile and a friendly ‘Hi, I’m Libby’. Only someone with no manners would not respond, you’ll know pretty quickly whether they are friendly or not. Knowing that there’s the possibility of connecting with the right people helps to ease nerves and give courage.
Libby Murray, owner, Elysian Brows
You’ve actually been networking for years. Remember your clients/customers?
Networking and building good relationships with our customers, as well as our own team members is fundamental to the success and future growth of PREEN. We want our customers to look and feel amazing when they leave PREEN, so excellent communication and interpersonal skills are a must. These are skills I have honed and perfected over a 20 year career span dealing with the general public and managing hairdressers, all with different personalities, so for me it’s not quite so daunting going into a networking scenario as it may be for others. My number one tip to break the ice in any networking situation is simply to smile.
Katherine Sweeney, managing director and founder, PREEN Hair & Beauty
True networking is looking beyond your inner circle – broaden those horizons
Lorna Farrelly and Elizabeth Farrelly, creative directors, The Brow Artist