Professional networking is insanely important for your career, whether you work in an office, for yourself, or out in a field. I learned a lot about networking at a very young age because my Mother was and still is a politician. I went everywhere with her, possibly a result of being the youngest, and I got to see first-hand how important it was to make connections- even if there was no immediate benefit to you in the moment. Somewhere, down the line, every connection you make could come in handy. This was also a strategy Mum used as a farmer, which has helped a lot over the years.
As I became an adult, I learned to be very socially savvy and make these connections for myself. I began as a teenager to get involved with various organizations and events to get my name out there and meet people. In a rural community it’s very easy to become well known by doing that. As my world grew, so did my connections and I followed proudly in my Mother’s footsteps. Unfortunately, in that, my Mum sort of became a bit of a stage mother. She was always forcing introductions to important politicians and thrusting my work at them, as well as nudging me at events to speak with this person or that person. I appreciated her wanting to see me succeed but a baby bird needs to fly. Separating myself from her within our shared world is difficult but necessary if I ever hope to be taken seriously.
My current strategy for networking involves attending every conference or event related to my industry that I can get to and shaking as many hands as I can. Running for positions within my agricultural organizations has also opened a lot of connections for me. Last year I ran for a director position with the Ontario Federation of Agriculture and had to make a speech to all the attendees of the conference. Though I was not the successful candidate, I had been seen, heard, and my intentions made clear. I made hundreds of connections through that experience, the most important being an invite to a lobby day at Queens Park where I was able to meet with Members of Provincial Parliament. A dream come true for me.
Virtually, I have a profile on practically every social media platform going. Certain platforms are more focused on different things, but I make sure that my voice and my personality are consistent. When I meet someone in person, I hand them my business card and encourage them to connect with me online as well so we can continue to stay in touch. That is key for farmers, like myself, who may only see someone once a year at a conference or event. Social media has really made networking a lot easier to do in that regard, it also makes it easier to connect with people further away that you might not have met otherwise who are in your industry. I personally prefer meeting someone face to face, but the online component is important for lasting relationships.
Going forward, I will continue to push myself further. I have never had a problem meeting new people and I enjoy testing myself by putting myself into situations that are stressful but ultimately beneficial. I am very passionate about my industry and my career and in order to have any success in either I need to get out and have my voice heard. Whether that’s by a neighbouring farmer or an MPP who could make the difference in getting proper internet to rural communities. I am my Mother’s outspoken, passionate, determined daughter and networking is as easy for me as breathing. I was devastated when Covid-19 robbed me of all my events and conferences this year. I will be attending virtual conferences, but the professional networking will be lost and missed. Here’s hoping next year I can get back on track!