Smash the “Networking” Stigma & Get Ahead
I’ve always blurred the lines of networking and socialising. Although I love going to events and meeting people, I admit given the choice, I prioritise catching up with old friends before expanding my professional network. Small talk and the stigma associated with “networking” can be cringe-inducing, especially for introverts.
What’s more, at major events like the London Vet Show, you’re already splitting time between conference sessions and meeting exhibitors. All the while the niggly feeling that you should be networking is at the back your mind. But there’s no escaping it. As proven over and over again - it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. Networking really will move you forward in your veterinary career.
The good news is, even the strongest anti-networkers can be converted. Walk away from your next veterinary event with valuable contacts for future clinical support, job searches and academia links. All it takes is preparation and practice.
CHOOSE THE NETWORKING FOR YOUR NEEDS
If you have painful memories of networking in the past, that event wasn't right for you. At major events like the London Vet Show - networking happens everywhere, not just at the dedicated networking functions. If you really enjoyed a particular conference session, introduce yourself to the speaker. Really like a new piece of technology you see on an exhibition stand? These people are literally there to talk to you, so get chatting! In a lab with specialist content? Swap details with a participant near you. These people will be implementing session outcomes at the same time you are and will be great to turn to for advice.
If you really struggle talking with strangers - a structured social event with organised social prompts may suit you better. They will give you queues to get the conversations started.
SHIFT YOUR MINDSET
An open mind and a positive outlook will go a long way when networking. Remind yourself that;
- You are a successful, competent and educated professional and really do have a lot to offer to someone else’s network (be gone, impostor syndrome!)
- The other people in the room are there for the same reason you are. Everyone wants to meet new people and expand their networks.
On top of this, set a goal for your event such as “I’ll talk to two people in a specialty I’m interested in”, “I’ll reconnect with three people from my alumni class”, “I’ll offer advice to at least one young vet”. That way, you’ll feel accomplished when you hit your goal and you’ll start to associate networking with success.
THE HARD PART
The best way to start a conversation is to introduce yourself, and listen very closely for their name and details (which are easily forgotten if you’re nervous). Always listen first, and then speak. By being the first person to ask questions, you take the pressure off yourself and will relax into conversation. Here are some open-ended questions to get you going:
- How do you like working for your practice?
- What’s your primary role at your practice?
- What type of CPD are you here for?
- What have you enjoyed most about your current role?
If you’ve had a good conversation with another professional, you may way to follow up to continue networking with them via email or via LinkedIn. Instagram is also becoming more and more popular among veterinary professionals. We suggest only connecting via telephone or personal social network like Facebook if invited to do so.
COVID HAS RUINED MY EVENT PLANS FOR 2020 – WHAT NOW?
With no live events in the veterinary world planned until the inaugural BVA Live (24-25 June 2021) - what can veterinary professionals do RIGHT NOW to practice networking?
- Foster your current network by touching base with your contacts who have been helpful in the past. You don’t always need something as an excuse to reach out to people – being generous and kind will go a long way in 2020 so set up a call to discuss how they’ve handled the crisis, and check in on their wellbeing.
- Join a new community group on social networks. There are loads of groups on Facebook for all types of niche veterinary folks.
- Ask for help when reaching out to someone new. An easy way to make a connection with someone new is to make them feel appreciated. People love to be useful.
- Get ready for the return of live events. Virtual events are great but will never replace the serendipitous nature of meeting in person. And it's never to soon to set up face-to-face (albeit socially-distanced) meetings with people you admire or future employers – start asking around for who is attending BVA Live 2021!
- Keep an eye out for upcoming networking opportunities with the Vet Shows – we will be announcing details very soon!