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Tips & Training

Intentional networking: Ditch the awkward pitch and build better connections

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It’s intimidating to walk into a crowded room, approach a stranger and eloquently deliver your elevator pitch in the hopes of that person asking if you’d like a job in their company. It’s overwhelming – and it’s what many people imagine when you say the word “networking.”  

People often assume networking means uncomfortable events, leading to a stack of business cards but no connections – and what do you do with all of those emails anyways? It is difficult to see results from networking if you don’t have clear goals in mind, or if you are just heading to any and all events in your area. If you aren’t being purposeful in seeking out people who you should meet, or who could help you in your career according to your skills, experience and education, you won’t see results. The National Connector Program, a national secretariat established and led by the Halifax Partnership, and funded by IRCC, has created a solution to this problem: a simple, effective program that focuses on intentional networking.  

Whether you are engaged in networking for your own career development or supporting clients to make connections, the model of the National Connector Program offers lessons about how to make networking more comfortable and effective.  With programs across the country, it helps hundreds of people each year meet the right people to build their network, understand the local labour market and access opportunities previously hidden to them – all within their community. The Connector Program also allows for deeper partnerships between organizations locally, because they can work together to support jobseekers. It’s also a value-add for jobseekers, since it enhances the supports and services they have previously accessed.   

Intentionality is the hallmark of the program. First, a “Connectee” (a newcomer, domestic or international graduate looking to build their network) meets with a Connector Program Coordinator. They discuss the individual’s skills, education, experience and their personal career goals. The Coordinator matches the Connectee with a Connector – an established community member with a wide professional network who has the desire to help grow their industry and community.  

Both people are briefed on what will happen when they meet, so each knows what to expect from the other. For example, they are both given questions they might want to ask and a general template for the meeting. The meetings are approximately 30 minutes and can be in person or online (though in person is always preferred). This structure lays the groundwork for a more meaningful experience for both parties – and the Connectee gets to skip the awkward elevator pitch while trying to juggle their food at a networking event.  

It’s often said, “it’s not what you know, but who you know”; in reality, it’s both.

Importantly, the Connector must offer to refer the Connectee to three contacts at the end of the meeting. The Program Coordinator shares this expectation in advance, so the Connector can identify individuals in their network who could help the Connectee further their industry knowledge and grow their connections. Instead of spending hours at events trying to meet people who might be helpful, a Connectee meets with the right person from the start! If they’ve made a good impression, it can also lead to new connections opening doors for them or giving their name to colleagues who may be looking for talent.  

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It’s often said, “it’s not what you know, but who you know”; in reality, it’s both. You need to have the skills and knowledge to do a job, but who you know can point you to opportunities – or create them for you. Who you know might stand up and say, look at this person, or put their resume on the top of the interview pile. It can separate a jobseeker from the group and increase their chances of being seen.  

If you can develop a strong rapport with those in your network, you can also depend on them for advice about your career trajectory. They might help you solidify your vision or broaden your scope, help you to think about opportunities you may have otherwise dismissed. Using your network as a sounding board allows you to understand the richness of the landscape and where your career might be able to take you.  

Networking can be scary – but it doesn’t have to fit the stereotype. Intentional networking can start with a deep conversation with one person – who will connect you with another person, and another, and on down the line until you know as many people as your first connection does. The next time you (or a client) are dreading an event, think about who you want to meet and why, and try an intentional networking coffee chat instead.  

With a background in Community Development and International Higher Education, Alida Campbell has a decade of experience helping communities and individuals develop their resiliency. As the National Connector Program Manager, she supports connector communities across Canada, and Internationally, ensuring they benefit from the program. Her focus is always on helping people access tools and supports so they can thrive wherever they choose to call home. A proud Rotarian and Youth Exchange Alumni, Alida knows the power of a network, and how beneficial it can be throughout one’s life. If you are interested in the Connector Program, check out our website at www.connectorprogram.ca to find a program near you.
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With a background in Community Development and International Higher Education, Alida Campbell has a decade of experience helping communities and individuals develop their resiliency. As the National Connector Program Manager, she supports connector communities across Canada, and Internationally, ensuring they benefit from the program. Her focus is always on helping people access tools and supports so they can thrive wherever they choose to call home. A proud Rotarian and Youth Exchange Alumni, Alida knows the power of a network, and how beneficial it can be throughout one’s life. If you are interested in the Connector Program, check out our website at www.connectorprogram.ca to find a program near you.