Here in New England, this time of year is not just about the beautiful foliage and crisp, cool weather; it’s about learning! Be it a short gathering, a day-long event or an overnight trip, opportunities to learn (and network) are filling your mailbox as I write. You can see them as wasting space and time—or as opportunities to network and learn. And whatever you learn will strengthen your skills and your network.
In late August, a colleague received an email from someone she had networked with in April alerting her to an industry conference being held in Las Vegas that would focus on some of the trends, issues, and key challenges they had discussed at their meeting. She read it, deleted it; undeleted it; and for the next several days would ‘click’ to look at it; think about it and talk about it with a few friends: “Do I go, should I go, I’ve got too much to do to go; what will I get if I go?”
She decided to fly to Vegas to attend 2 days of the conference. Although there were plenty of professional, and personal reasons to keep her at home, she changed her schedule, juggled a few appointments around, made the financial investment and told her family “Here’s the phone number for takeout pizza”–to learn! This conference offered the opportunity to learn from national- and world-recognized experts, to learn from interactive workshops that ‘promised’ actionable takeaways, and to learn from other professionals/attendees coming from all over the country. Now some might call this networking; but my friend saw attending this conference as a unique learning opportunity. She did her due diligence; read the conference schedule carefully and selected those activities and sessions that would give her the most “bang for her buck.” She also built in structured networking time, allowing herself to meet, be with and learn from like-minded people, to talk with industry experts, and to be a student of the profession she loves and has spent decades developing as her expertise. I can assure you her time will be well spent and what she “learns in Vegas, will not stay in Vegas.” It will be shared with her clients, colleagues and with the person in her network who sent her the email telling her about the conference.
Have I overused the word learning? Maybe, but networking is about putting yourself in places with people where you can hear new information, exchange idea, listen to different perspectives, broaden your thinking—in other words: learn! Now you may not plan to fly to Vegas, but do think about what you will learn if you will take the time to attend a local professional association event or industry meeting!