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Friends with Benefits....

Last weekend I had the opportunity to spend time with others who do the same voluntary leadership role as me and I recognised that it's almost always beneficial to learn from others, especially when they have gone through similar experiences. We listened to each others stories, challenges and successes and empathised with each other in a way that no-one else would really have been able to. It was inspiring and confirmed to me how important it is to connect with people who are in similar roles as you. The time spent together ignited an exchange of ideas, we shared lessons learned from the challenges we have faced, gained perspective on ways we can best serve our team to achieve success together, sometimes we just listened and we had fun together too, so laughed... a lot!




The importance of finding a good network

Whether you are just starting out in your career or are a seasoned veteran, having a group of peers that you can rely on and learn from is crucial. As Barack Obama once said, "you can't make change alone." And that's true in every aspect of our lives. Having a support system of like-minded individuals who understand your context and can offer their own unique perspectives can make all the difference in your success. So, put yourself out there, attend networking events, and don't be afraid to reach out to others in your field. You never know who you might meet and how they could positively impact your career and your life.


Benefits of Building Connections

Networking allows us to meet people who may have valuable advice or experience that can be helpful in achieving our goals. It also can help open up new doors and opportunities that we may not have considered otherwise. For example, a simple introduction from a connection could lead to a job offer, a new business partnership, or simply a new friend or mentor. Additionally, by building strong connections with others, we can gain access to a wider variety of resources and information that can help us grow both personally and professionally. So, whether you're looking to advance your career or simply expand your personal network, building connections can be a powerful tool for success.


Strategies on how to connect

Connecting with potential mentors, peers, and collaborators can be a bit intimidating! Get started by identifying individuals whom you admire or who possess skills or experiences that you would like to learn from. Reach out to them with a personalised message that introduces who you are, highlights your shared values or skills and expresses your interest in learning from them. Most people will be open to a discussion and if they say no or ignore your request then nothing is lost, but so much could be gained if they say yes. Networking events and social media platforms are helpful tools for finding potential connections too. If you have never tried growing your network or have tried before but lost confidence, it's definitely worth trying again, it just takes practice and the more you do it, the easier it will get. Start off small by reaching out to one person who you share connections with already or attending a smaller event with fewer people. Even if all you do is introduce yourself to one person, something like that can help build your confidence.

At an event, feel free to take a friend, it's much better to have someone you can tag team with in case either of you get stuck and we generally feel a bit braver when we are with someone. If you dread talking about yourself and that's what puts you off then think about the things you are working on and, if you can, talk about those, you can then talk about your contribution to those projects on the back of it. And don't forget to give others the chance to comment, ask questions and share about themselves as well and listen to what they have to say, there's nearly always something interesting to be found.

If you do find yourself stuck in a conversation, this is where having a networking buddy with you can really pay off as along as you agree a rescue signal beforehand! If you are there on your own, don't be worried about exiting stage left with something like 'well it's been good to meet you, as it's a networking event I'm off to see if I can find <insert name>' or if that feels too brave, how about 'it's been good to meet you, I've just seen an old colleague that I promised to catch up with, so thanks for your time'. Everyone is there to network, so don't be afraid to be precious with your own time at the event.

Finally, don't forget to follow up with the people you met. Send them a Linked In connection request, a quick email or message, thanking them for their time and expressing interest in staying in contact. Networking is all about relationships, so it's important that you keep those lines of communication open! Be confident and persistent while remaining respectful and mindful of their time and boundaries. Remember, building relationships takes time and effort, but the rewards can be immeasurable.


My reflection on last weekend

I gained so much insight and inspiration from these individuals, and it was refreshing to see how we could work together and learn from each other to tackle common challenges. But what really stood out was the sense of camaraderie and support among us. It was a reminder that we don't have to go it alone, and that true progress is made when we come together and share our knowledge and experiences. It's moments like these that remind me why I love what I do and why connecting with others is so important.


Final Thoughts

As we go through life, we meet many different people, some of whom become our close friends, while others play a more minor role in our lives. Many will really influence us and may even significantly change our path. Think about it; we often rely on our connections to help us land a job, make introductions, or even just provide us with emotional support during difficult times. With so many demands on our time, it can be tempting to prioritise work or other obligations over our personal relationships, but taking the time to nurture meaningful connections can really benefit us in the long run. So whether it's making an effort to stay in touch with old friends or network with new ones, maintaining relationships should be a priority if we want to continue to learn and grow.

After spending the weekend with these other leaders and reflecting on my own experience, I have become more conscious of the need to continue investing in relationships with my peers. Regardless of where you are in your life or career, it is really useful to build a strong network that can offer feedback, advice or inspiration when needed. By taking the initiative and reaching out, you will be putting yourself in a position to benefit from the collaboration of knowledgeable individuals. By devoting a bit of time and effort, you could open up new pathways to success. It is never too late nor too early to start connecting with people who can help provide guidance and support throughout your journey in life and your career as well.

And I had a really good time too!


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I'm Leah

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