Networking: Why it’s an ugly word
How often do you go to events and feel awkward, out of place or alone? Or you go with a friend and you only speak to each other and stand together chatting, catching up and looking out at the rest of the guests who seem to be doing the same thing? Or, don’t go at all?! I know I’m guilty of this – I mean let’s be real, it can be scary and a little daunting going to an event and trying to speak to people you don’t know. It feels like such a big deal walking up to someone and starting a conversation.
Assistants are generally the quiet (over)achievers in the background. We are the ones who work tirelessly behind the scenes to make everything run smoothly and do what needs to be done, but we are almost never the people at the front, on the stage or in the spotlight, rarely getting the credit and acknowledgement. While there are some of us who are happy to be in the spotlight, I think it’s safe to say that the majority of us are quite content in being in the background – being the “do-ers”. As assistants, the general nature of our personalities is that we aren’t overly thrilled about being in a room with people we don’t know, having to walk up to strangers and strike up an awkward conversation… and let’s be honest, walking up to a group of women, in any setting, is hard and scary. It takes courage and confidence, and often a sprinkle of sparkles!
This is one of the main reasons I’ve found that assistants either don’t attend, or have stopped going to networking events. ‘Networking’ itself has turned into an ugly word - it holds negative connotations for most of us, it feels forced and it’s rare that anybody likes doing it. However, if you put me in a social setting where I feel relaxed, comfortable and with ‘my people’, I’ll talk to everyone, make new friends and have the time of my life. Seriously!
So what’s the difference? Well, for starters, if I feel like it’s something I have to do, I’ll probably not want to do it at all. When it feels forced, it’s not natural or real for me – can you relate?
For me, it’s about making meaningful connections, creating a community and a support network - meeting people who are ‘my people’, which is exactly what Sassy Assistants is all about! At our launch event last month we had 70 ladies in the room who didn’t know each other – we didn’t tell anyone that they were there to network, never mentioned networking at all, and you know what happened, almost everyone spoke to each other! Why? Because they were all there for the same reason, because they all wanted to be a part of something, a community, a support network – this is how you make organic, meaningful connections, and you don’t even realise you’re doing it!
Now I’m not trying to say that you shouldn’t network – quite the contrary! Networking is extremely important for all of us - having a good, solid network is a must-have to your career and personal brand. It is about sharing - sharing your ideas, your expertise, your contacts, your strengths – it’s really important to learn, grow and connect with each other. As assistants, we understand each other the best and we are the ones who can help each other the most! It doesn’t matter whether you’re just starting out in your career, or whether you’re the most experienced in the room, we all have something we can share.
Your network is super important – you know that saying ‘it’s all about who you know’? Well it’s true! When networking and socialising, you’re building your own personal brand and you are creating a reputation for yourself. The stronger your connections, the easier it is for you to find out information, get what you need, and it can often lead to helping you grow your career. If you have a strong personal brand & reputation within your network, you will have more opportunities and more people backing you, supporting you and recommending you for future roles.
So yeah, networking is scary and it’s an ugly word. BUT my tip is to think about it differently and go to events that have the right feel for you – it’s about making meaningful connections and friendships with people who can help you to build a supportive community to connect with. If you are around people who are there for the same reason, then you are making real, organic connections - and without even realising it!
Nis & Sarah