JULIA HUGHES is managing director of Working Solutions (Mercia) Limited, based in Ludlow, which recruits staff for both temporary and permanent contracts. She has been in her job for 25 years.
HOW HAS YOUR COMPANY HAD TO RESPOND TO THE CORONAVIRUS CRISIS?
Some of our clients who need temps have continued to operate, some temps we have furloughed and we are recruiting for some clients who will start new permanent staff when they reopen.
HAS THE LOCKDOWN PRESENTED ANY OPPORTUNITIES AS WELL AS CHALLENEGES?
It has presented marvellous opportunities for video networking with other business people and developing knowledge using online platforms.
WHAT DO THINK THE CURRENT CRISIS WILL MEAN FOR YOUR INDUSTRY IN THE MONTHS AND YEARS TO COME?
There may be more opportunities for staff to work remotely which will be good for many people in Shropshire. There may well be more people looking for work or to change the work they do. It will be challenging to assist all those who come to us but we will do our best.
HOW DO YOU GET THE BEST OUT OF YOUR STAFF?
By giving them flexibility and the opportunity to use and develop their skills.
HOW MANY EMAILS DO YOU TEND TO GET IN A DAY, AND HOW MUCH TIME DO YOU HAVE TO READ THEM?
75+ - over 2 hours to read and address them.
HOW DO YOU HOPE YOUR COLLEAGUES WOULD DESCRIBE YOU?
High attention to detail of my own and their work as well as energetic and enthusiastic about recruitment.
HIGHLIGHTS OF YOUR CAREER SO FAR?
Running an assessment centre for the new CEO of 2 merging organisations.
ANY PARTICULAR AWKWARD OR EMBARRASSING MOMENTS IN YOUR CAREER YOU WOULD PREFER TO FORGET?
Supplied a PC to an employee which my IT provider said he had cleaned but which was found to have a very contentious email buried in its depths causing me substantial problems.
Poor grammar and spelling in business correspondence.
IF YOU COULD GO BACK AND GIVE YOUR YOUNGER SELF SOME WISE ADVICE, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
Use a good debt collector before a client goes out of business using our services to bankroll their company.
HOW DO YOU RELAX AWAY FROM WORK?
Walking up hills in the good fresh Shropshire air.
WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE IS SPECIAL ABOUT THE SHROPSHIRE BUSINESS COMMUNITY?
There is a wide diversity in the business scene and most business people have a positive attitude to newcomers to business.
TELL US SOMETHING ABOUT YOU THAT MOST PEOPLE PROBABLY WOULDN’T KNOW.
I am learning the cello – slowly!
YOU CAN TAKE ONE BOOK, ONE FILM AND ONE CD ONTO A DESERT ISLAND – WHAT WOULD THEY BE?
War and Peace, Lawrence of Arabia, Thunder and Rainbows (Martyn Joseph)
YOUR FIVE DREAM DINNER PARTY GUESTS, DEAD OR ALIVE?
Dame Judi Dench, Omar Sharif, Einstein, Nelson Mandela, Barbara Streisand
WHAT WOULD YOU CHOOSE TO EAT FOR YOUR LAST SUPPER?
An Introverts Guide to Networking: It’s 7am in the morning. After writing your name on a big, white ‘Hello my name is…’ sticker and slapping it onto your lapel, you make your way into the conference room. Avoiding direct eye contact with everyone, you grab a drink and a pastry, which looks only mildly edible! You then make your way to the corner of the room to ‘browse’ the leaflets, business cards and posters laid out by the organisers or to mindlessly stare at your phone. Sound familiar?
I’m an introvert, I despise small talk and find some networking events, and some of the people who attend them, a little contrived. What I have come to realise however, is that people buy from people and we must put ourselves out there! Networking can be excruciating for introverts but ultimately it is about building relationships and connecting with people, which often opens new opportunities. Follow my tips on how to overcome that awkwardness, making the process less daunting and let’s really start to embrace networking.
“Psychologist Carl Jung was the first person to describe these two personality extremes back in the 1960s. He wrote that introverts and extraverts could be separated based on how they regain energy. (The term “extrovert” is now used more commonly than “extravert.”) Introverts, his basic definition said, prefer minimally stimulating environments, and they need time alone to recharge. Extroverts refuel by being with others.” – Reference https://www.healthline.com/health/what-is-an-introvert
My Tips for Networking Success as an Introvert:
Do your research
Contact the organiser and ask for a list of all the expected attendees at the networking event. You may spot a name you recognise, which should put you at ease; but importantly it gives you the opportunity to visit attendees LinkedIn profiles and company websites. Research who you would like to chat to or who would make a great connection for your business; is there anyone recruiting your dream job role? “Forearmed is Forewarned” and with this information you can then make a plan and set a few goals to achieve on the day.
Use social platforms to your advantage
Social platforms such as LinkedIn and Facebook have made it a lot easier for us to connect with people. It is an excellent way for introverts to target individuals in business that they would like to make a connection with. Once you have researched who you would like to chat to, take some time to see what subjects they have been posting about on their profile; this will give you a conversation starter, and sustainer, when you meet in person.
Equally, make sure your profile is up to date and shows off your skills, passions and attributes. Introverts aren’t as good as extroverts at openly showing off their talents so let your profile do the talking. Talk about what makes you tick professionally and what your goals and ambitions are for the future. Try to get recommendations from colleagues and previous employers too.
Change your mindset
Changing your mindset is not easy but once you master it your life will change for the better. I can be guilty of being negative about situations; the voice in my head telling me that the networking event will be a waste of time and that I won’t meet anyone interesting. I have learnt to recognise those thoughts and give myself a telling off! One has to train oneself to rubbish those negative thoughts and think positively about networking.
Approach each event with enthusiasm and think about the achievements and opportunities that could come out of it. Focus on the goals you have set yourself, then let them drive you to make the most of the situation.
Set a goal to achieve
Setting an achievable goal before your attend the event is a great idea. It may be that you want to introduce yourself to the speakers on the day or you may want to connect with businesses you’ve been trying to work with for a while. Don’t fret about collecting as many business cards as you can and speaking to everyone; if may prove more productive in the long run to make one or two meaningful connections.
Take a Colleague or Friend with you
It’s cheating slightly, but going to a networking event with a friend or colleague should make you feel instantly less anxious knowing that a familiar face will be there. Please don’t just hang out together the whole time though! Start by pairing up and working the room together introducing one another to attendees. Take it in turns to make the introductions and strike up conversations; once you have your confidence you can go it alone. It is likely to be more fun if you have a friend to bounce off of and wave to from across the room.
Ask for an introduction
It’s daunting introducing yourself to strangers but a great tip is to make a beeline for the speakers at the event. Introduce yourself, tell them how much you enjoyed their presentation or speech and politely ask them if they can make any warm introductions to other attendees. Don’t just ask to be introduced to anyone! Have in mind who you want to speak to and what you want to achieve from the introduction.
Have opening lines prepared
If you are not a natural conversationalist, striking up a chat with someone can be challenging so I would always suggest having some open questions prepared that are specific to the event. Some questions may include: ‘Wasn’t that a great speech! What did you think about…?’ (insert subject matter) or ‘Is this your first time at this event? I haven’t been before but I’m really impressed!’
Asking open questions should get them talking. Introverts are usually excellent listeners, so use this skill to your advantage. People tend to remember people who intently listened to them and who were truly engaged in the conversation. You must ask questions to keep them engaged though, don’t just stand there like a lemon!
Set a reason to follow up
I am a Recruitment Consultant so in my case, I attend networking events to make new business connections, build on those connections and hopefully get new job roles to fill. I am also constantly on the lookout for exceptional candidates for existing clients. However, upon making a new introduction, I don’t dive straight in and ask them if they are recruiting; I chat about other things, things that they are interested in. Generally people like talking about themselves, so I ask them about their job role and what’s going on in their industry to hopefully find some common ground.
After the event, I will then connect with them through LinkedIn and maybe send them some interesting stats or content about their industry. Overtime, keep chatting and exchanging information through LinkedIn and then ask to meet up for a coffee to discuss any opportunities.
It’s slightly tricky whilst we are in the midst of the Covid 19 Pandemic to meet up with relative strangers, but use this time wisely to build and nurture those connections you have already made. Who knows what opportunities will come out of this tragedy, and I think it is important that we share industry knowledge and help each other in business during this tough time.
Be yourself and smile!
Introverts can tend to put a lot of pressure on themselves to be perfect and can beat themselves up when interactions do not go according to plan. Remind yourself that not all conversations at networking events will pan out as you wanted them to, but you will learn from these experiences.
Remember to relax, breathe and smile! If you are stressed and up tight, your body language will portray those feelings, so put on a friendly face and smile through the anxiety. People are a lot more likely to approach you for a chat if you look friendly and have open body language.
Lastly, be yourself – Don’t be afraid to express your opinion about something, especially when you’re asked, and feel free to share your own experiences where necessary.
We have all heard the saying ‘It’s not what you know, it’s who you know’, let this be your mantra. Keep establishing connections and building mutually beneficial and long lasting relationships; remember relationships are the catalyst for success. If you keep practicing all these tips and work on changing your mindset, you will become more comfortable and successful at networking.