“It’s more about who you know than what you know”
“Networking is so important for your career”
“You should start building connections NOW”
Networking. Connections. Networking. Business. Networking.
A few months ago I started volunteering with Sustainable Waterloo Region as their Public Relations Manager. Every week we have team meetings where we discuss different business needs and socialize with other volunteers. During one of these meetings within my first month of volunteering, one of my biggest fears as a young professional came to life.
The Business Development Manager asked us if we had any connections with people from other organizations that may want to be part of the SWR network. I’m currently in my fourth year of Conestoga College’s Bachelor of Public Relations program and the professors constantly stress how important it is to network with other business professionals. I also hear prompts to prioritize networking from the few established professionals that I know who are doing their best at offering advice.
While I have attended some networking events, it definitely isn’t my strong suit. At this team meeting, I suddenly I felt so insecure and uncomfortable because I thought I didn’t have any connections and I knew I hadn’t done adequate networking. I’m outgoing but introverted, and I haven’t pushed myself enough to meet new people.
“It’s okay. You’re not there yet but you’ll meet new people in this role,” I tried to encourage myself. The rest of the meeting I felt bad that I had nothing to offer, but tried to convince myself that my lack of network was okay, and that I still had time.
A few weeks later, SWR’s Executive Director, Tova, and I had just finished a meeting in the Communitech hub and were on our way back to our office when I ran into an old classmate, Filip. We were both surprised, chatting and catching up, when we realized that we had just managed to make the perfect business connection.
Filip works with Focus 21, a tech startup based in KW and working out of Communitech. As it turned out, he was applying for B Corps and was looking for ways to improve Focus21’s sustainability practices, particularly for their new watr project that’s launching in Guelph. Watr will be an app that motivates residents to conserve water through gamification and rewards programs. Focus21’s needs matched with the current direction of SWR, and after some meetings and discussions with members of both teams they have now become an RCI member.
I still can’t believe it. If I didn’t happen to run into Filip that day, a perfect opportunity would have gone completely unnoticed. Turns out, I do have a network!
Yes, networking is important, and we should embrace the network we build for ourselves. No, my professors and advisors weren’t wrong, and I do still need to work on my networking skills. But it’s also possible to build a network without attending every networking event. Even if you’re like me and networking makes you uncomfortable, and perhaps your new in your industry, you still probably have business connections that you don’t know are there. Look in the most unexpected places, because an opportunity may be waiting for you.
Now I have seen the benefits of networking, and my next mission will be to build my current connections and push myself to go to more events.
*Hint – LinkedIn is great for professional networking (and yes, this is a plug to the SWR LinkedIn page).