How to Network
This episode talks all things networking. Rachel and Jo go on a deep dive of best practice when trying to build connections in the industry, why networking is not an instant process and why it's so important to pay it forward.
Read on for the transcript here:-
JG: Welcome To The Atelier, where we workshop your work life. Brought to you by Talent Atelier, the executive search business where we essentially act as a dating agency between businesses and people. I'm Jo, Managing Partner of Talent Atelier.
RSB: And I'm Rachel, Founder and mother of both the business and my two kids.
JG: We focus each episode on a topic we're asked about frequently, pepper things with anecdotal experiences we've had over the years, and root around for letters in our mailbag.
RSB: Think of it as career therapy. And this episode is all about networking, building relationships both on and offline in the working world. From a poll that we recently did. Jo, I know you love a poll.
JG: I love a poll on LinkedIn.
RSB: Also our favourite place to be. We asked everyone where they felt their best. Was it online or offline? And unsurprisingly, 84% of people said that they were happier in person. But the people that voted to be online really surprised me. And with some people that come across as extremely confident, but maybe prefer being able to switch on and off.
JG: Big online presences.
JG: Interesting. Rachel, tell me about your worst networking experience. IRL. I know you've got a few.
RSB: I have. Obviously I've got loads of them. But when we were having a chat about this, I came up with the one that made me feel the worst, just to make everybody else feel better. And it was when I was in my mid twenties, and the business that I was working for had given me a ticket to this event. And it was a huge industry thing and lots of people were going and I was really nervous because I hadn't really done anything like that before. So I'd spent ages planning on what I was going to wear. I had my little patter down and I was in there and I was trying to shuffle around and I was by myself as well. So not only was it super awkward because it was the first thing I'd done, but also I was alone and I didn't know who I should be talking to.
RSB: And I remember someone gave me some merch and I was just walking around with a load of shit pens and I just didn't know what I was doing. And then, so I was feeling quite self conscious anyway, but I was desperately trying to pretend to be like, hey, here I am. And then out of the corner of my eye, I spotted someone that I kind of knew. And I was like, oh. And I looked. And then I saw that it was the head girl from my old school and she was there staring at me. And so all of my insecurities from my childhood and my adolescence came flooding back to me in this moment that I was desperately trying to be looking like I knew what I was talking about. And she was like, Rachel.
RSB: Everybody, this is Rachel. I used to be her head girl at school. And I was like, oh, my God. And I hated school and my school was weird and so the whole thing was just really awkward.
JG: So spotty teenager Rachel, just imploding.
RSB: Walking around with my guitar all the time, trying to be cool. That was it, I imploded and then I ran away and that was that. But I told my boss that I'd had a great time and I'd met loads of good people. Same to you, pal. What was your worst one?
JG: So, in my old agencies, obviously, as a headhunter, you are in touch with people over the years. It's not just that one occasion. So I met this woman who was looking for a job. She'd moved over from another country. She worked in luxury fashion in communications, so she really turned on the charm. And we built up a really good relationship and then she got a job at a really good fashion brand. And then I joined another agency and were holding this big event, it was about ecommerce and fashion and loads of business leaders were there and it was brilliant. And part of the evening, the beginning bit of the evening, was having a glass of wine and saying hello to everybody before the panel discussion started. And obviously I was there, I was in an outfit, I'd just started my new job.
JG: I was really excited and I went over and I said, let's call her Sara. She's not called Sara. But I walked over to her and I said, hi, Sara is Jo. Remember we spoke a couple of years ago and she just turned her back on me and started talking to somebody else. Didn't say one word. I just got absolutely rinsed at a work event in front of my boss and guess who's blowing up my inbox now because she's looking for another job.
JG: Yes. So I've got a bit of a bad taste in my mouth, not going to lie. And maybe we'll work together in the future. Who knows?
RSB: Who knows?
JG: Right, then, shall we rustle around in the post bag and see who is lurking around? Or what is lurking around.
RSB: What's in that post bag? Yeah, good idea. I am going to pull this one out first. Going to pull it out. Oh, here we go. It's from Sam. You've got mail. Hello. Okay, this is a good one, actually. I've moved to Amsterdam and I'm feeling like my identity has gone back to being at school. I thought, as it's mostly English speaking here, that I would be able to click in, but I feel isolated. It's annoying, as I'm normally a really confident person, but I feel super lame. I think we hear this all the time, don't we? This is like a conversation that we have on the Daily and I think.
JG: Yeah, I think if you're moving to a different country. They might be English speaking mostly, but the cultural divide is still there and trying to get under the skin of that can be quite isolating. And in that instance, I'd probably start with my workspace and my environment around me and make peer to peer connections through that, but also see if there's interesting expat communities out there that you can connect into.
RSB: I think one thing we really see is that unfortunately, you don't tend to just merge straight into the culture there. You end up being on the periphery and you are like you do not just in Amsterdam, but wherever you move to, you do end up in an expat community because it takes a while for anyone that's local to kind of assimilate, because they're used to people coming in and out. They don't make friends with you as quickly. So you've got to really play the long game with that and not expect to just land and be like best pals with everyone straight away. You're one for a gym class, aren't you?
JG: Yeah I like to build my network that way.
RSB: I think, like just kind of getting into activities and stuff. I think also, if you move with your family, there's both the opportunity to make friends through other parents at school and things, but also you sometimes just end up being in your own little world all the time, so you don't talk to anybody else. I know that a lot of people that sometimes move out to the big sports brands feel that they're just in a community, like living in a Centre Parcs, they don't make friends outside. So I think it's just harnessing the power of your personality and trying to make sure that you speak to as many people as possible. We did have lunch with someone the other day, though, who's an HR director who essentially isn't allowed to make friends with anyone in his business.
JG: Because he's a HR Director.
RSB: He's HRD. Yeah.
JG: So he has to maintain some form of distance from people, but then it's the only way that he can. So he's taking the dogs for a walk in the park and meeting people that way. Sometimes how he has to do it. But then his partner moved over here at the same time. But one thing he did say about moving to London, is that nobody's from London, so we're really accepting. Well, he said this, his version of English and how it might not be perfect and everybody's a bit more just mingling together. But if you have moved somewhere and you've relocated, remember that if it is somewhere like Amsterdam or Paris or London, there are lots of people that have also relocated there. So you're not alone. You don't need to feel isolated.
Next up is Sasha. I'm a creative, but don't want to have my social media open for the world to see, do I need to build a personal brand online in order to stand out? I feel like it's really noisy out there and I'm lost.
RSB: This is a really good question, and I went to speak to a few people about their thoughts on this. And one in particular is Rory, who is the Executive Creative director and Founder of Clubhouse Studios. And I asked him this question because essentially he recruits people within creative, but also wants to make sure that their work is shown and his personal socials are all locked down because he has young children like I do. So it's like an automatic off button. I think with most people, as soon as you've got kids, you kind of switch everything off because you don't want people looking at your stuff unless you curate it in that kind of way. But also, he was saying that when it comes to people approaching them directly for work or wanting to show their skills off, he prefers to see the more organic, a bit more relaxed platforms where you can showcase your stuff in a better light.
Because other platforms which are specifically curated just for portfolios, tend to be a bit stale and a bit dry and maybe they don't give a level playing field.
JG: I guess if you're the owner of a business as well, you're trying to figure out what that person is.
RSB: Not just what their personality comes through it as well. So you and I were talking earlier as well about if you should have a work Instagram profile and then also a personal Instagram profile. You could I don't know, with you, your profile kind of showcases everything, right?
JG: Yeah, I just have it as mine. And I also wondered whether I should be doing one for work, but then I thought the work one would just be dry and I know that our clients look at my Instagram and there are bits about my life in there, and I'm okay with that.
RSB: It’s nicely done though. Whenever people ask to follow me, I'm always like, oh, no. Because if it's a client I've got on really well with and there's my kids at Peppa Pig, here I am at Butlins for a lol, and here I am at Peppa Pig Live, and here I am doing this. No one wants to see that. And I don't put enough out there for it to be interesting, so I always say no because I just feel awkward about it because I'm just like it's too personal and also too boring. But I do like looking at other people's.
JG: For me, watching walking rescue dogs on Holbosh Island is okay.
RSB: Yeah, I think something else that Rory was talking about as well, which was really relevant, is just kind of modern day networking. And the idea that if you don't put things out there, you don't get stuff back. And in terms of just having the patience and the tenacity to just keep approaching people. He likes getting direct approaches from really great talent in order to keep them at the forefront of his mind, but it's just obviously a balance between that and then being the person that's knocking on the door all the time. You just have to make sure that you're being intuitive as to if that person should be hearing from you again, and also being smart about how you communicate. The amount of quick questions… emails that I get, or like, just floating this to the top of your inbox…
Don't be that person, because those messages just make everyone go, oh, my gosh. But it can only happen if you put it out there. It's like cause and effect. So Rory was really keen to say, like, it takes 18 months to kind of two years sometimes for things to come around, which you and I know really well as salespeople. So in terms of networking, if you've sent out one message or you've gone to one event and you followed up once, don't expect that to just come up with something. You need to build some kind of relationship in the background, something that he said was, you need all the ingredients inside the space for that ripple effect to take place. And only a creative would say that. But, yeah, so, yeah, that was super helpful having a chat with him about it. But, yeah, I think it totally depends on your personal opinion about things.
But if you have got a website as well, that's always good if you're a creative to kind of showcase stuff, don't let it go stale, and don't presume that people are going to be able to find the work that you want to showcase on there. So really guide people through your stuff. And if you have got an Instagram and you're a creative, consider having it open.
JG: But also use the platform to which it's intended. So don't be putting pictures of your kids on LinkedIn because nobody wants to see that.
RSB: God no, or a glass of wine…wedding pictures, no.
Next question from Georgia. I'm trying to pivot my career and have recently retrained. How do I make myself relevant in a new industry?
JG: So you need to start first and foremost by looking at your LinkedIn and all of your socials. You need to be current, conversational and connected with the right people. So, if you're trying to exactly pivot from one category or one sector of industry to another, you're probably not going to be that well connected apart from outside of your training or whatever you've done in that space. So make yourself really useful to these people that you admire. Can you do work experience or an internship? Even if you're older, you're sometimes more useful because you've got a lot of transferable skills and experience in the workplace as well. So never be afraid to ask about those things..
RSB: My husband did that actually, he was working in one sector, was extraordinarily bored and really sad and he actually, after much nagging, obviously independently made the choice of handing his notice in, but then he went and did an internship. But because he was older when he did the internship, he was given loads more responsibility. And then also when he went to do his first kind of junior job, he skyrocketed through the ranks really quickly because he was able to do that with just the life experience that he had. I think that's a huge testament. Like when you're older and you're retraining the experience that you've got just within management and the workplace and those kind of things are so important that the kind of skills that you need for whichever job you are going to do, you'll probably pick up relatively quickly depending on what it is.
But the other things are really bolstering to what you want to do. Obviously it depends on what industry you're changing from and to, but there's always things that will hopefully connect you along the way.
JG: Yeah, I was thinking about that when I first moved to London and I wanted to get into styling and I didn't really know how to do it. It happened by accident through my flatmate, but I got the job. And because I was 25, 26 and most of the people that were doing that were 20, 21. I was just always the person that they wanted to take on set because I had a good head on my shoulders and it stood me in good stead. And I became much more senior quickly because of that.
RSB: A lot of the people that we work with decide at quite a senior point in their careers as well to do MBAs as well. Or I spoke to someone that did a mini MBA the other day as well, and I think it maybe reclicks you into getting excited about newness and gets you out of any kind of rut that you might be in. So you can do a mini MBA while you're working and that can sometimes pivot you into just expanding your horizons as to what you can achieve or even with the job that you're in at the moment, what you might want to do and to benefit that company or to benefit yourself along the way. It's certainly an avenue that you can look into, but also just, I think the confidence and the pitch that you have about yourself, the more you say it, the better it's going to be when it comes to talking about what you are doing now and what you've done before.
JG: Yeah. Also attending events that relevant people are at is always worth it, even if it's just to get ideas about how to move forwards in your career, the people that are front and centre of everything - they do get further. So having that confidence and just being there and being present.
RSB: Something as well is looking at someone that you admire and what they're doing in their careers and seeing what their career path has been, like where they have worked, et cetera. Is there anything you can take away from that and just the organisational structure of any company that you're interested in if it's going to work for someone else? Like how have those people got to where they can get to and is there anything you can take from that? Is there any training you can do? Are there any internships or is there anyone that you can meet where you can? Another thing probably to mention is that as headhunters we're talking about this, but it's really difficult for people like us to spin you into a new industry completely. Because unless there's a specific skill set that a business is looking for, it's often quite hard because we're targeted by the business that's essentially engaging us to find a specific route of talent.
So yeah, headhunters can help to a certain extent, but if you're looking to go from one thing and be completely changing, it can be a bit of a hop. We can't necessarily always help, but sometimes we do place people that have maybe come from say an FMCG background into a luxury fashion background because there's a lot of synergies that are really helpful for those different industries together.
JG: Yeah, swapping over the category is easier than swapping over the skill set. Somebody coming from operations, going into marketing, it's a completely different skill set. So that's slightly different and less where we are. We spoke to some other people and asked how they'd managed to pivot their careers into different industries. So we spoke with Marina Lefkaritis and she was most recently the GM of EMEA for Hauser and Wirth. Marina actually came up through luxury fashion in clienteling and moved into the art world. And previous to that she worked in investment banking. She's super bubbly and quite charming and her angle has always been to be really accommodating and always remembering that you need to pay it forward and be accepting that people have transferable skills. So she said the same way others helped me 15 years ago, I should be helping others now. She also did all the courses and projects she could on her target sector so that she could go to interviews, prepared to talk about her chosen subject, even though she had no work experience in it.
RSB: That's really relevant, isn't it.
RSB: Okay, so we also spoke to Priya who's the founder of Nudea, but she was formerly very senior in merchandising for Fiorucci and Burberry as well. And something she said which is really relevant for anybody looking to just get a step ahead, was swallowing her pride and being prepared to start from the bottom again. People feel that once they've got to a certain point in their careers, sometimes it can be seen as really negative to go back down again, but you need to do that if you want to pivot. And it's seen as a real positive. As long as you're humble about it, you don't mind getting stuck in. They're the people that are at the top of their game that people enjoy working with. And she said she also spent time on LinkedIn, reaching out to contacts in the industry to learn about jobs and careers to date so she could understand where her skills would fit in. Again, super relevant.
And I would also put in here that not everybody owes you a coffee. There's just this fine line between reaching out to people and being a positive person and being like, hey, blah, blah. This is what's going on with me at the moment. If you have any time to have a conversation, I think as soon as you start saying a coffee, people are like, oh my gosh, I'm so busy. The only time I'm in the office at the moment is like Mondays and Fridays or like Tuesdays to Thursdays rather, the traditional working pattern. And to fit in a coffee with someone you don't know that you don't owe anything, it doesn't normally go down well. But if you're just asking for a phone call or for a quick chat on a video call, it's much easier. But also, again, they don't owe you that.
So if you land in their inbox and you've sent a really nice message, keep it brief. I had one the other day where someone was approaching me about something and the message was huge. It took up a full screen and it was just waffle waffle waffle about how brilliant they were. And at the bottom it was like, hope to hear from you soon. It's like, about what? I don't even understand. So any communication you do, get it proofread by other people. Keep it snappy, keep it point, get to the point. Like, what do you actually want out of the email? Don't be too formal, but don't be too informal as well. Just get that balance right. Get someone else to sense check it. Get two or three people to read it and see how they would respond if they got that message.
And the same as well. Like, some people will send out gigantic cover letters over-explaining what they're looking for because they're pivoting industry, but again, no one reads them, so it's just wasted energy and then you'll feel a bit deflated. So keep it snappy. Email CV that looks targeted with interesting information on there. No terrible pictures. Always have to say that because they're always there.
JG: No terrible pictures.
RSB: Honestly, we had one the other day that was really sexy for a really great woman, who is brilliant, but it was literally like an upskirt shot. And I was like, no, we don't need that. Don't need to be seeing that. Nobody needs that. Just keep it snappy with the information about why you're so good at your career. Don't need to be sexy, because that's not what we're employing you for. We're just employing you because you're great at your job. So think about who's receiving the message. Think about how you're presented. Google yourself. I always say this because if that person goes, all right, we'll have a look at Jo Gilmore. What are they going to find?
Just make sure that your brand of yourself is there. And if you're someone that's not that confident, it sucks, I know, but try and build your confidence by listening to podcasts that are relevant, about building confidence and doing techniques that will help you feel like you're getting a bit of assertiveness. And those are the kind of things that will encourage you to network within and outside of your circle. Hopefully.
JG: Yeah. If you do feel like paying it forward, if you are senior in your career and you do want to pay it forward I saw this CMO the other day, he works in tech and he'd put a thing on LinkedIn, which was if you want to have half an hour of my time to talk about your job search, and I'll give you any leads. Then put here's a link to my calendar, and you can book out half an hour, which I think is really kind. If I had loads of time, I would do that for people.
RSB: We did do it, like, a while ago, didn't we, when things were a bit rocky in the pandemic and we did, like, career counselling for people. Yeah, it went down really well actually, that's a really good idea paying it forward.
JG: When people contact me and they want to pivot into something else. If I've got half an hour of my time to spare to have the conversation, I'm happy to do it - if it's somebody that I've worked with. It's different if it's just a cold email.
RSB: If it's a cold email and it's really difficult to do.
JG: But if it's somebody I've worked with and they're trying to do something, I'll always try and help them.
RSB: Yeah, actually, Gemma, who's been on this podcast before well, not this version of the podcast, but the first series of the podcast. She was a lawyer originally, wasn't she? And then she spun right round and is now, like, GM / CEO of Luxury Beauty. I think it's just a case of having the confidence to talk about yourself in the right way, really.
JG: Sometimes it's all about getting in there and proving your worth and showing off those transferable skills. And sometimes it is just down to that, the click that you have with your boss, things like that.
RSB: Okay, let's round things up then. It seems to me, with my highly educated goggles on. That networking is essentially what you make of it. What you invest your time in is going to reap the rewards later on.
RSB: So if you are someone that needs to make friends because you've moved to a different country, make friends because you've moved to a different business or you want to plug into a different industry, then it's all about just making sure that you are trying to invest the time and energy. I mean, it's basically like dating, isn't it? Getting your swipes right and just continuing the process with that. Cool.
JG: And you've got to make sure that you're current, conversational and connected on all of your socials and they're all joined up and everything's in the right place.
RSB: The three C's. I came up with that.
JG: You did?
RSB: The three C's.
JG: Three C's.
RSB: We'll start selling that as a concept. Okay.
JG: Read the room. Don't bore everybody or pin somebody in a corner at an event.
RSB: Yeah. Nobody owes you anything. I feel like I've got PTSD from this, do you remember when we were pinned at that event that I spoke at, and that girl just wouldn't let us leave?
JG: Oh, my word. Yeah.
RSB: And you were just lolling in the corner and I just sat there.
JG: I was just sitting there with my gift bag trying to have a nice time.
RSB: And I was trying to melt into the floor so I could siddle off with a glass of champagne.
JG: And this girl was like Mrs. Speaker! To Rachel.
So, yeah, don't be boring and suck up people's time. And also, don't get pissed.
RSB: Don't get pissed. Don't be the person that's regretting what you said in the morning.
JG: The drunk person at the event.
RSB: Take opportunities to meet people more senior than you on a social level at office events and things like that. Builds confidence and rapport. As long as you're not the person that was pissed. Be the person that other people want to be around. So basically, as always, fake it till you make it.
JG: Fake it till you make it.
We'll be putting questions out to our LinkedIn community about future episodes, but if there's anything you would like your favourite career therapist thoughts on, then get in touch on firstname.lastname@example.org.
RSB: Signing off for now. Bye.