HOW TO MAKE NETWORKING WORK FOR YOU
Updated: Jun 14, 2019
At the DeGroote Women's Professional Network, Syvil Verch, SVP, National Director Wealth Management at Raymond James Ltd. shared her approach to finding the power from networking.
With my maternity leave time coming to an end, I decided it was time to re-introduce myself to the business world. I made sure my husband would be home, ironed a dress, pumped milk for Hudson's last feeding and headed off to a DeGroote School of Business networking event. To be completely honest, I did not even really focus on the topic being covered, I was just eager to get out for a night and talk about something other than nap time. The agenda for the evening was all about networking, and although I have been to a lot of networking events in my past, I still had some great takeaways and reminders from the session.
Sybil Verch, SVP, National Director Wealth Management at Raymond James Ltd, presented at the DeGroote Women's Professional Network on the "The Power of Leveraging your Network". To say this woman is a powerhouse would be putting it lightly. She declares herself a "numbers nerd" and that this is what led her into the financial services sector. Thanks in a large part to her ability to network, Sybil has scaled her responsibilities and scope quickly. More on this later! She presents herself as a feminist and is unapologetic about her mission to bring more female financial advisors into her organization (and shamelessly pitched the job opportunities at Raymond James).
She presents herself as a feminist and is unapologetic about her mission to bring more female financial advisors into her organization.
Sybil covered the top reasons to network, the bad types of networkers and the seven tips for success, but one of the points resonated with me most was to be intentional when networking. This means that when you go into an event (or a meeting, a presentation, even a bar...) it is all right (even preferred) to be specific about what you hope to gain from the interaction. There is no need to mask that you are looking for a common interest, a mutually beneficial relationship or a new opportunity. Keep in mind, the person on the other end of the conversation is looking for the same connection points.
But, the key when being intentional is also to be authentic. Don't be a serial relationship builder or a used car salesman. Ask questions first, listen carefully and use the opportunity to learn about the other person's priorities. This gives you space to consider if your own priorities align. For example, if your conversation partner mentions their current challenge transitioning new graduate engineers into the workplace and you train engineers in your role, a mutually beneficial relationship could be a follow-up discussion on the skill sets that need to be included in the recruiting process versus the skill sets that can be developed once hired. Being intentional, yet coming across as authentic, and getting to the point quickly can be a lot to think about though.
Ask questions first, listen carefully and use the opportunity to learn about the other person's priorities.
So, be sure to arm yourself with a go-to conversation starter. Sybil explained that this can help increase your confidence and allow you to identify common interests quickly. My favourite question she shared as a conversation starter was "what excites you most these days?" I like this question because it can be used in some many settings (a new client meeting, a casual networking event, even a first date!) and it really gives you insight into how someone spends their time or where they dedicate their thoughts. A few other include, "If you won the lottery, what would you do?", and "what are your main priorities or goals right now?".
The Power in Action
Sybil not only speaks on the power of networking, but she is also an example of how using your network can take your career in unexpected positive directions. She shared that while attending an annual women's conference for her organization, she made a point to introduce herself to the Executive Team including the company president. After an authentic conversation about her role, skills and interests, the next week, the President called and offered her a role on his Executive Team in the US! The Canadian division countered and she ended up joining the Canadian division of the Executive Team. Her ability to intentionally introduce herself and ask insightful questions accelerated her career in new ways.
The Wealthy Life, is a Canadian produced talk show that covers a wide range of topics to increase everyday financial literacy (episodes are available online too!). The show is entering its fifth season and Sybil takes on the role of Host and Executive Producer. But, how she ended up in this place, is a story of networking. A few years ago, a cameraman she knew mentioned the show he was working on was searching for a financial expert. After auditioning, Sybil became a guest expert for The Hard Way, a show providing guidance to struggling business owners. When sponsorship was pulled from the program, Sybil tapped into her network to ask about what it would take to create a new show focused on "sharing real world no-nonsense financial advice for Canadians dealing with their own financial challenges". Eventually those conversations turned into The Wealthy Life!
When sponsorship was pulled from the program, Sybil tapped into her network to ask about what it would take to create a new show...
After Sybil's presentation, Rebecca Repa, Vice President Clinical Support Services and Surgery, Hamilton Health Sciences, joined the conversation for a Q&A. Rebecca shared her own experience with networking and the importance of being memorable during these quick moments. Rebecca said she realized she was completely forgettable after a colleague introduced themselves to her for the fourth time at an event. After that experience, Rebecca now makes a point to consider her physical brand. At tonight's event, this meant bright red shoes!
Standing out though is not just about your physical appearance or body language anymore, you must also consider your digital footprint when networking.
Standing out though is not just about your physical appearance or body language anymore, you also need to consider your digital footprint when networking. Connecting with someone on social media (usually LinkedIn) should be one of your first follow-up actions post-event. But, when is the last time you really looked at your own digital footprint? Sybil and Rebecca recommended taking the time to see how you brand yourself online. This includes conveying not only your job history on your profile, but also what you are working on currently or what topics you are looking to connect with others over. Sybil's own profile shares how she is "focused on increasing brand awareness nationally as well as mentoring and coaching other investment professionals to exceed their clients’ expectations". Just like being intentional is important in person, it is also important online.
Where Do You Get Your Energy?
While both introverts and extroverts can be successful at networking, it is important to remember that these terms refer to the environment you need to recharge your batteries and get your energy levels back. So, introverts need independent, often quiet space to reflect and refuel, whereas extroverts gain their energy from social situations.
I have heard this definition many times, but lately I have been feeling really drained of energy and it has been hard to feel super motivated. But, I have also had a lot of alone time at home and away from social situations. As an extrovert, this social gathering definitely re-energized me and gave me the reminder I needed that energy is not always about what we eat or how often we exercise. So, if you have been feeling drained, if might be a good time to check in with yourself and see if you are re-energizing yourself in an optimal environment.