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For the Love of Networking, presented by WIL Alberta Chapter

Article contributed by Penny Izlakar with the WIL Alberta Chapter

Just seeing the word networking might send those like me, a self-proclaimed & Myers-Briggs confirmed introvert, running for the hills in a mild cold sweat. But, with some research and deep-down reflection, I don’t find the concept as scary anymore. How I approach networking now has changed my fear into curiosity. While the idea still gives me mild cold sweats at times, I love meeting new people who drive my thought diversity, spark my creativity, expand my knowledge and reach for driving change. Below I share five tips on tackling the scary networking concept to help you be the best version of yourself.

Networking Tip #1 – Join a group that offers mentoring or peer support opportunities, either internal or external to your organization

My experience:

  • Lean in Circles – I joined a circle at my company that expanded my network across the organization and explicitly focused on women – I did not know these fantastic women before I joined. Still, we are heading into our third year, and I cherish the chats and learnings from those meetings.

  • FEMINEN – I filled out an application to join the FEMINEN Calgary chapter at my organization, became Co-Lead to an impressive Lead (Monika Rao), and took on the Allyship Satellite committee of Male Ally’s (a great and passionate group of men across the company). I did not know anyone before I signed up to join, but I knew my desire to help share experiences and support other women to drive change.

  • WIL Mentorship Program – I mentor quite a few people formally and informally in my organization. Still, I wanted to volunteer to mentor other women. I came across the Women In Leadership Foundations mentorship program, which led me to also join the WIL Alberta Chapter and ultimately led to me writing this blog and being part of the DEI National Committee.

Networking Tip #2- Stay connected to post-secondary alums or associations you are a part of where you immediately have something in common to connect on

My experience:

  • Panel Opportunities – Early in my career, I joined a panel with my school graduates to speak on non-traditional jobs for library and information students. This allowed me to stay connected to the program and future talent.

  • Mentor Current Students – when I finished my MBA at Royal Roads, I was asked if I was interested in mentoring current students. I said yes. This turned out to be a great networking opportunity, and didn’t take a tremendous effort on my part.

  • Associations – I am a Certified Records Manager and initially joined the ARMA Toronto Board to fulfill an ask from a previous boss. My intent to drive change and support experienced records managers led to being asked to be Board President and eventually hold a seminar on essential records management compliance activities. This led to me being head-hunted by my current company, but that’s a story for another post!

My examples show that using your education and certifications to stay connected allows you to network without having to attend traditional networking events.

Networking Tip #3 – Sign-up for a mentor or seek a sponsor

My experience:

  • Sponsorship: As part of a previous cohort of Women in Technology at my company, I received a sponsor (an executive leader) to help support my career development and they opened their networks to me, which supported my growth.

  • Mentorship: Check out my 4 part series on your personal support system to learn more on the types of mentors you might be able to connect with to support your growth and networking reach.

Networking Tip #4 – Traditional Network Events (although scary) are still a great way to meet people, but getting as many business cards in your hand should not be the goal. Try and focus on quality over quantity, who do you want to get to know? Focus on one or two people and build a connection.

My experience:

  • I still don’t love these events and wish I had some great stories of success or insights. Unfortunately, I am still an introvert and am still figuring out how to get out of my head and sign-up for more events. However, many recommend bringing an extrovert wing person who will drag you along for their ride and introduce you to some unique humans. So, find your wingperson and break out of your comfort zone and attend a great network event that resonates. If you have an excellent tip to break out of my comfort zone, I would love to hear it!

Networking Tip #5 – Establish a personal plan to make networking a regular occurrence

My experience:

  • I have an individual development plan that I update annually. I stretch myself yearly by having career conversations with five leaders across the company to open my network. I always learn and grow from the conversation. These conversations focus on the following:

    • How has their career progressed, and what lessons did they learn that I should consider in my journey?

    • What areas or skills do they look for if a position opens in their team?

    • What do they consider great qualities for leadership?

  • Develop your board of directors and stay connected to them (some use green, yellow and red to symbolize the current state of the connection)

  • Plan small acts each week where you purposely do a networking activity. Some examples include:

    • Developing a list of who you would love to connect with for the year.

    • Build a chart or diagram and highlight your current connection to that individual (e.g., work, association, fellow parents, etc.).

    • Build a timeline that is reasonable to execute those small acts.

My approach to developing my plan:

  • Yearly

    • Reach out to 5-7 new leaders in the company and see if they are open to a chat which I schedule once they agree.

    • Reach out to someone new, either at work or through a friend/connection.

  • Monthly:

    • Find 3-5 people over a month to connect with on LinkedIn.

    • Ping one or two colleagues at work that you have not talked to in a while and see if they are open to meeting for a physical or virtual coffee.

  • Weekly

    • Share 1-4 posts on LinkedIn (either a reshare/post or a personal post).

    • Use weekly 1-on-1s with peers or leaders to gain valuable connections for projects, deliverables, or new ideas.

  • Daily

    • Chat with colleagues and gain more of a personal connection with them.

    • Celebrate the wins of your colleagues and friends because they deserve it, and you may lighten up someone’s day.

By not making it a once-a-year event or a stressful endeavor, a plan can help you incorporate networking and building connections into your day-to-day life. Expand your reach by having a program that builds over time – one conversation or one tip at a time.

By not making it a once-a-year event or a stressful endeavor, a plan can help you incorporate networking and building connections into your day-to-day life. Expand your reach by having a program that builds over time – one conversation or one tip at a time.

Leader. Efficiency Finder. Mentor. Leadership Advocate. Penny Izlakar



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Rikki Smith
Rikki Smith
Feb 27, 2023

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