Last week I spoke at an event in Melbourne and for the first time shared my story, all of my story. It is a pretty raw story still, but in time I will share here as well. One part of my story that resonated with so many of the women in the room, was just how lonely I felt in the beginning of our business. Working in a heavily male dominated industry, make it challenging for me to find opportunities to network and networking in business is a crucial way to grow. As always though, there are other opportunities to grow your network, and have the opportunity to feel supported and not alone.
Networking In Business
When I started in the construction industry, there was little to no opportunity to network, especially for this quiet soul who prefers to work at home than walking into a room of people I don’t know and introduce myself. But networking is a skill especially necessary when first entering business.
We all have a need to be supported and while some of us may prefer for that to happen from behind our desk, others are happy to get out and mingle. Here are some options for all personality types.
When you look around you might be very surprised by how many groups have sprung up in your industry, generally with a niche group for your exact position. I know of at least 5 groups of women in construction that offer networking events, training and support. These are a great way to start networking in your industry.
Every industry has associations in which you can involve yourself. For example in construction we have the HIA and Master Builders Association. These associations have groups attached and industry meetings, seminars and webinars that provide opportunity to meet and mingle with others in your profession. Check out their websites for a calendar of events and see if there is one near you.
Having been to a few awards ceremonies now, I have been pleasantly surprised at each event to have come away with a new network of contacts. Granted not all of these have been contacts I can use in my business, but they have all been contacts within my industry that have a good idea of the challenges we face daily. These people would love to chat with you, and most people are happy to share their own experiences in the hope they can help. Don’t be afraid to send and email or call those people you meet.
Conferences and Training
I attend all the conferences and training I possibly can, not only do I meet like minded people but I learn new skills as well. A simple google of your industry will show you the possibilities of your industry training and lead you to a new set of skills and friends.
Facebook wasn’t used for networking when I first started in business, but it has developed as a brilliant networking tool. There are many groups used for the purpose of networking in business all from the safety of your own home. We have a Facebook group called Tradies in Business for the purpose of networking and support for trade based businesses, but it is only one of many in our niche. Trying searching Facebook groups for your industry.
I have been overwhelmed since joining LinkedIn, with offers for networking and collaborating. I had had the perception that LinkedIn was somewhere for people looking for work, but really it is like the professional persons Facebook. If you are not on it, get on it! Great for support and for meeting people in your industry.
While these are not as common as they once were, in construction we often have trade nights in which a local supplier will put on a BBQ and drinks and some education about their product of the month. These are a great way to meet people.
Contact Someone You Admire
Regardless of their position in your industry, we all started at the bottom and worked out way up. We all remember what it was like in the early days of our business and most of us are happy to share what we have learned, with that in mind, take the time to contact someone you admire. Send them a short email outlining who you are and what you do and ask if they have time to catch up for a quick chat. You’ll be surprised how many people are happy to chat with you and share their experience.
Networking is a great way to build yourself a support system. We can’t do business alone and there are times we all need help or support, at those times, relying on a well built network is important.
Do you have a network or like-mined business associates? Can you walk into a room of strangers and introduce yourself?