Social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Plaxo and others are all the rage. And there are always bars and nightclubs where you can dress to impress, but young urban professionals wanting to get on in their careers should be looking at more traditional methods too.
Face-to-face interaction with peers and colleagues and the opportunity to meet and swap experiences with new people are the main benefits of networking events.
Getting involved with service clubs such as Rotary also brings many benefits. “Rotary is not a collection of aging duffers who are past it socially and commercially,” says active Rotarian Gillian Jones. And there are significant benefits for non-Rotarians seeking to forge ahead.
Ben Dunsheath is a business development manager at the land information company Terralink International. Just starting out in his career, last year he was selected for a Rotary Group Study Exchange to Brittany in France.
He investigated how a French tidal research institute used satellite imagery to study the formation and flow of algae as an indication of water and environmental quality – research he says is very relevant to his work and to coastal science in New Zealand.
“This was a very workrelevant trip that neither my employer nor I could have arranged or paid for alone.”
Five women who are all involved in violence prevention programmes in Wel lington and the Hutt Valley recently left for Denver to study US approaches to domestic violence. The trip follows a visit by a team from Denver to New Zealand last year.
Jim Greenhough runs a television and video production business called Execam.
“Rotary helps me keep a sense of perspective about what’s important in life. Being selected for a leadership role in a club or district is a sign that others have confidence in you too. So being selected for a study tour or as an ambassador is a sign that others see you have potential. Your employer will value that. It’s reassurance to them that others have also made favourable judgements about you.”
The old adage of business networking groups, from trade associations to service clubs and other business-connected charities, is “friends through business, not business through friends”.
Business Networking International deliberately sets out to help its members gain business by referral from other members. Members meet and learn about each other’s businesses, so when someone asks, “Hey Bob (or Mary or Roxanne) do you know a good removal firm (or carpet layer or carpenter)?” a BNI member can confidently give the name of a fellow member with those skills.
At the Port Nicholson Rotary Club, president Bill Day says: “In Rotary you get to meet, mix and mingle with people from a wide range of trades and professions, people you might not ordinarily get a chance to meet. “Our club meets weekly over breakfast. We enjoy each other’s company, learn something from a guest speaker each week, and get involved in prog rammes ranging from hosting students from overseas to charity auctions, mentoring programmes to fund raising for local charities.”
There are many places to meet and impress others with your intelligence, charm and wit. At Rotary, Jones says, “you are judged by your quiet deeds, not by how much noise you make or by your ability to make a business pitch.”
She sounds one note of caution. “Don’t expect to get business awarded to you because you are a Rotarian. It isn’t like that. Business opportunities are rarely discussed openly among members. It’s much more about making connections and other people seeing that you are a decent sort of person, one who can be trusted, a person with integrity who is prepared to help out. In life those qualities and your networks are just as important as your skills and competencies and have to be worked on as well.”