For those of us who aren't entrenched in the glad-handing, business-card-wielding world of the modern workplace, "networking" can sound like a dirty word.
But, according to Jen Schaeffers, founder of professional development resource hub Networking in Vancouver, networking doesn't have to evoke visions of painful small talk and pointless pitches.
"A lot of people view networking as a 'sales-y' word, but for me it's just another word for meeting people and building genuine connections, whether that be professionally or personally," she said.
Schaeffers will be giving a talk at the Fairmont next week as part of the Women of Whistler speaker series that will delve into how to create meaningful connections in the workplace the same way you would in any other setting: through genuine, authentic interactions.
"I think a lot of times we hear about the elevator pitch now, but I'm not really a believer of that so much," said Schaeffers. "I feel that good business relationships and good relationships in general are built upon authenticity and genuine connection."
The key then, Schaeffers explained, is to be a good listener, and not focus so much on furthering your own career, but looking for common ground you can build upon.
"To be honest with you, when I go to events I don't actually talk much about myself, I ask questions of other people," said Schaeffers. "I'm interested in how people have started their businesses or careers. Or their personal life. Are they a runner? Are they a skier? Where might there be some mutual connection we could talk about?"
Of course, in 2015, professional networking isn't relegated to the office, and social media can play an integral role in fostering lasting relationships. That's why, whether you're a social media maven or not, brushing up on your "netiquette" is always a good call, said Schaeffers.
"For me, your online presence should match who you are as a person," she added. "What do you want to be known for? What do you stand for? You can shape all that yourself based on what your Twitter bio is, what conversations you engage in online... what your company is. I encourage people to have a bit of a strategic direction behind that."
As important as your online presence is, it shouldn't replace your face-to-face interactions, but rather complement them.
"I encourage... businesses to do as much face-to-face as they do online. I think they complement each other really well, and I'm a firm believer of building your network before you need it," Schaeffers said. "I'm not a believer of having 2,000 people on your LinkedIn; that's of no service to you. How many of those people could you call up and ask to spend a night on their couch? What is the quality of those connections? So to build those, you need to start to develop relationships as well."
Women of Whistler: (Net)Working It is scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 29 from 6 to 8 p.m. Visit whistlerchamber.chambermaster.com/events/details/women-of-whistler-net-working-it-209 to register.
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